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Pension, health insurance bills bite the dust… for now

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

* As we learned yesterday, the pension reform bill has been shelved until the fall veto session

Claims of strong-arm political tactics, numerous legislators with state facilities and public employees in their districts, and concerns about fairness sunk a bill that would have increased the amount current public employees would have to pay for their pensions. […]

Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, a member of the House Republican leadership, said some GOP members were told by leaders in the Civic Committee, a group of chief executives from Chicago’s largest corporations, that they would face primary challenges for re-election, if they didn’t vote for the bill.

“Hopefully they learned something from this, that if you do want help implement change, top down may not be the best model,” Watson said. “Calling caucus members and threatening them — that doesn’t play well. Yes, they may have lots of money, but some of these members down here who just won have good relationships with people. They know what they need to do to service their districts.” […]

Another factor that contributed to the bill’s collapse was the strong opposition legislators heard at home from teachers and employees of state facilities in their districts.

* The Tribune editorial board’s anger was, surprisingly, somewhat subdued

The point, though, is that we’ve seen this before. In the House, 65 votes for casinopalooza. But not enough votes for pension discipline.

We don’t fault Madigan and Cross. Their joint statement, issued with Civic Committee President Tyrone Fahner, indicates they will keep pressing for pension reform. It has been good to see Madigan and Cross work together this year to establish a spending level for the fiscal 2012 budget that’s more disciplined than what Senate Democrats and Quinn want.

But even with their combined efforts, Madigan and Cross couldn’t persuade a majority of their members to support pension reform, the most significant legislation in Springfield this year.

Lawmakers head into their final scheduled day of the spring session on Tuesday. Some of them think they dodged a bullet on pensions. They haven’t. Illinois has $85 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Every family in Illinois is already on the hook for $42,000 in combined debt. That’s $42,000 and counting.

* But the pension bill wasn’t the only retirement-related proposal to bite the dust yesterday

Retired state employees will not be required to pay premiums for their state health insurance for the foreseeable future.

Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, the principal architect of the legislation, said he does not plan to call the health insurance premium bill, Senate Bill 175, during the closing hours of the spring session. […]

Schoenberg said his intent was to target people who retired from upper-income state jobs before they reached 65, the age when they would be eligible for Medicare. Those employees would also likely be receiving larger pensions and able to afford paying premiums for their health care, according to Schoenberg.

The plan under consideration, though, would have charged premiums to retirees with pensions less than $15,000 per year. Even retirees with pensions between $35,000 a year and $50,000 a year could have paid from $5,882 to $1,476 annually for state health insurance.

* Related…

* Push to cut government worker pensions fizzles at Capitol

* State pension push stalls

* Some Illinois public school teachers earning six-figure salaries

* More unpaid furlough days for Cook County workers

- Posted by Rich Miller        


55 Comments
  1. - Bucko - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 6:20 am:

    On a recent visit to my Doctor at Springfield Clinic I asked him what was up with the Insurance change by the State of Illinois. He inform me that it was very simple. Blue Cross Blue Shield donate 100,000 dollars to Quinn’ s campaign while Health Alliance contributed only 10,000. Any Truth to this matter? If so has anything really changed here in Illinois.


  2. - PublicServant - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 7:20 am:

    Just wanted to make sure people saw the joint press release issued by our legistators and their buddy Ty. Who district does he represent btw?…

    May 30, 2011

    STATEMENT REGARDING PENSION REFORM

    We are absolutely committed to reforming Illinois’ public pension system for current employees. It must be done to stabilize our systems and address long term financial issues for both the public employee pension systems and state government.

    We believe passage of legislation addressing this issue is essential to the state’s well being.

    It was made very clear during the May 26th hearing in the Personnel and Pensions Committee that both those who support pension reform and those who are opposed to Senate Bill 512 acknowledge we have a problem and something must be done.

    Our goal is to enact reforms to our pension systems that provide a long term solution for both those who are members of the pension systems and those who fund them.

    We will convene meetings over the summer to address the issues and concerns that have been raised and work toward a solution in this year’s Fall Veto Session. [Emphasis added]

    -Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan
    -Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross
    -Tyrone Fahner, President, Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago


  3. - Cassiopeia - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 7:25 am:

    While many state employees are happy that they won’t have to begin paying more that joy will be short lived. The unions will celebrate their victory but it is a victory that does nothing to ensure that their members will have a secure retirement. It does just the opposite. This chance to make the system financially sound has been lost to short sighted “leaders”.


  4. - PublicServant - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 7:27 am:

    Pay your bills, Cass, and the systems will do just fine.


  5. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 7:30 am:

    Fahner’s group put a ton of money into radio backing those bills. What did he get for his money, except for his name on a letter?


  6. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 7:42 am:

    To those who always mention that the state is not paying its bills (a statement with which I partially agree) and who say that we taxpayers benefited from the services that used pension payments for GRF programs I say this:

    Most of the programs funded by the state government BENEFITED state employees every bit as much as taxpayers who “received services.” Most of the money spent went to programs that hired union employees (Davis-Bacon requirements), or other programs such as education or heath services that employ union workers. And don’t forget that the whole mess is monitored and supported by unionized state employees.

    I point this out only so you consider tempering the argument that the taxpayers have benefited by the state spending pension contributions on services that we received. I contend that state union employees benefited to the same degree as other taxpayers that received the “benefits’ of this excessive state spending, and benefited even more by continued employment and receipt of healthcare and other benefits that would have been reduced if state lawmakers met the obligated pension spending.

    The bottom line as I see it is that government overspending on typical government programs brings at least as much benefit, is not more, to union employees as taxpayers. Union employees are indeed suffering because of the unfounded pension liabilities, but would have suffered much more if the state spent within its means. The state should now pony up its obligated money, and do so by reducing spending to meet honest revenue projections.


  7. - Palatine - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 7:52 am:

    It’s time for our State retiree’s to shoulder some of the burden for thier insurance cost.


  8. - sickntired - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 7:58 am:

    I am so embarrassed to live in Illinois. Corruption has got to stop and the average Joe better start speaking up at the polls. We pay for health benefits for the state retirees who then get part-time jobs to get their quota in for social security benefits. Police/Fire Unions got that our latest jerk governor in and he took care of them as soon as he was sworn in. WHIMP!


  9. - PublicServant - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:14 am:

    @Palatine - No it’s not. They were promised 5% on their insurance premiums would be paid for each year of work for the state. They accepted lower salaries because of that promise. They were promised that each year they signed a contract to work for the state. Thus, after 20 years, the state pays for 100% of that retiree’s insurance premium.

    @Cincinnatus - State employees are taxpayers too. Saying that if the state would not have overspent, our insurance premiums and other benefits would have been cut, presents a false choice. You’re saying that we’re going to get cut one way or another. That’s a false choice. I contracted with the state to provide my services for the full benefit package consisting of current salary and future benefits. I provided the services, and expect payment as promised.


  10. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:26 am:

    PublicServant,

    For many weeks on this blog, people have been saying that it is time for taxpayers to pay up for past services received, programs that were funded at the expense of pension funding. I wholeheartedly agree that the state should properly fund its pension obligations. What I have found objectionable with these posters; argument is that somehow, the state employees have somehow been shorted because of some innocent actions of the taxpayers.

    My contention is that taxpayers did benefit, but that state workers, and unions in other fields that benefited from state contracting benefited too. Perhaps even more than “regular” taxpayers. I am tired of people arguing that somehow the taxpayers are fully responsible for the pension mess, and are not supporting more borrowing and spending. The greed cuts both ways. Unions in Illinois have received MAJOR benefits from the overspending that shorted the pension funds at the expense of pension funding, primarily by continued employment in what has turned out to be a relatively safe job.

    If we want to assess blame, let’s put it squarely where it belongs, overspending legislatures and governors of both political stripes. These elected officials bow to the political pressure of unions, witness Quinn’s $500,000 deal for no-cut state worker numbers he cut days before the election. Until government unions are prohibited from contributing from election contributions, this built-in conflict of interest will remain.


  11. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:31 am:

    I’m glad to see the retiree health insurance premium issue shelved for now.

    If they want to change it in the future, they should first study the past. At one time the State used to fully vest retiree health insurance after 8 years; that was changed to 20 years for new retirees, it did not retroactively apply to people who were already retired. The ability to buy into the group health still vests at 8 years which is, I believe, based on an IRS rule. People between 8 and 20 years have to pay a percentage per year. So the precedent had been set that you can change it going forward but not change it for people already receiving the benefit.

    If the intention is to protect the benefit for career employees, then simply change the rule going forward from 20 years to 25 or 30 or 35 years.


  12. - PublicServant - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:36 am:

    YEah right Cincy, the politicians are in the union’s pocket…oh wait, who consigned that press release with Madigan and Cross that I posted above? That would be Ty Fahner, president of the civic committee of the commercial club of chicago. You see any union signitures on that statement? I’m tired of you trying to place the blame for this on the unions, when we see the influence that business has with the legislature every day. The most equitable way to pay for the mess is taxpayers and service cuts, not finding creative ways and euphimisms to renige on past promises for services already rendered. You want to lay off state workers? Do it. I’m all for it. Cut services? No problem. Cut my benefits package after I’ve already rendered the services? No way.


  13. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:48 am:

    PublicServant,

    I agree with your final few sentences. And I am laying the blame for this mess on the politicians who kowtow to special interests (unions and corporations) to the detriment of employees and taxpayers.


  14. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:04 am:

    To the detriment of taxpayers? How about to the detriment of the employees that paid in already who are relying on those moneys to live on in their retirement years?

    My prediction is that this money grab will go nowhere this year…rewrite the Constitution or renegotiate with the unions, that’s the only way to do it.

    Thanks to John Cullerton, AFSCME and it’s membership…


  15. - Robert - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:29 am:

    private companies started to change the rules re: retirees needing to contribute to their health care 30 years ago. they too believed they had a contract with their employer to have health care paid for.


  16. - PublicServant - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:35 am:

    Yeah Robert, the employees got shafted. Let’s not allow that onerous practice to spread to the public sector.


  17. - lincolnlover - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:45 am:

    Robert - But private employees do not and did not have a constitutional guarantee that their retirement benefits would not be cut. The proper way to make changes is to include ALL the parties involved - the GA (elected by the taxpayers) and the unions (elected by the employees). The Civic League should not be involved. They are lobbiest and represent special interests, only.


  18. - Pot calling kettle - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:45 am:

    “pension discipline” is an interesting turn of a phrase. Perhaps 40 years of the state paying its share would have been good “pension discipline.”

    The state has been digging an ever-deeper hole for well over 40 year. When the constitution was re-written 40 years ago by such luminaries as Mike Madigan, the authors knew that “pension discipline” was hard to come by. In response, they put in a clause preventing the legislature and governor from messing with the pensions that had been promised to employees at the time they were hired. That clause was intended to force some sort of “pension discipline.” It seems not to have worked very well.

    When the Tribune opines on “pension discipline” I think they should push for “constitutional discipline” as well.


  19. - Liberty_First - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 10:17 am:

    They need to get the message they can’t keep spending on the backs of the employees. These lobbyists from Chicago don’t seem to understand how the state runs. They have to cut programs not continue to take it out on the workers while all the insiders line their pockets….


  20. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 10:59 am:

    Medicaid is the fastest growing line item in the budget, and its administrative overhead is less than 4%.

    Moreover, Illinois has the lowest headcount per capita of any state.

    Arguing that state employees have benefited even indirectly from pension diversions is unfounded.


  21. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:07 am:

    - Loop Lady - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:04 am said:

    “To the detriment of taxpayers? How about to the detriment of the employees that paid in already who are relying on those moneys to live on in their retirement years?”

    Again, my point is about those who try to shift blame for this mess onto the taxpayer and the citizens of Illinois. Employees did benefit, because the shifting of funds from pensions to spending turned out to be an employee-full-employement-act decision. And that decision flowed through the entire state contracting stream to employ people in projects, great, small, needed and unneeded.

    The bottom line is that legislators and governors choose to funnel money to their favored lobbies, much of which uses union labor, over the real, hard, necessary obligations to employee pensions.

    Furthermore, this also may demonstrate how poorly the unions represent their members. The unions tend to come out for new spending and enlarging existing programs, which increases the number of union members and dues which can then be used to increase power, over protecting their existing members benefits. Similarly, corporations benefit from increased profits on revenue from government spending with all the same caveats evident on whether or not a project is really necessary and a true government function.

    Nobody blames a union or a corporation for lobbying in its own best interest. It is the people unduly influenced by the lobbying who care not a whit about the taxpayer or the employee and his pension on which we should heap our scorn.


  22. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:15 am:

    YDD,

    Your point about Medicaid is understood, yet we in Illinois have among the most generous benefits for Medicaid in the US (I remind you that AllKids will cover non-residents). And while Medicaid is among the fastest growing, it is only one of several expenditures that the state makes that have approximately the same order of magnitude dollars attached.

    You seem to think that just because of the Medicaid program and its 4% overhead that other programs are the same, and that employees all over the state are equal in their efficiencies? Or that all other programs in the state carry the importance of a properly defined Medicaid program?

    I noticed you did not even try to argue about Quinn’s $500,000 donation deal with the unions, who are concerned more about getting more and maintaining the number of their members (equating to more dues and power), and less about the sustainability of their members benefits.


  23. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:38 am:

    @Cincy - What promises did Senator Brady make to his donors?

    Unions ARE concerned about additional staffing cuts. From what i understand, many departments are already facing overwhelming staffing shortages.

    If we are going to decry the influence of fundraising on public policy, then lets discuss public financing so that millionaires of the Civies cant threaten the Republican caucus


  24. - dupage dan - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:45 am:

    @Pck - 9:45am,

    =The state has been digging an ever-deeper hole for well over 40 year.=

    Just who should make up that shortfall? The “state”? Just who is the state? The GA? The Governor”? The state is all of us. That’s who is going to have to pay. But as cincy has stated, all of us in the state have benefited from the misuse of the funds, possibly even more so for us state employees (I don’t completely agree with cincy’s logic but it is compelling).

    It is too easy to say it is the elected politicians who are soley to blame. If they were doing something the voters really didn’t like they would have been voted out. People do like to get something for nothing - that is what they were getting. The problem is, the “nothing” is not, right?


  25. - downhereforyears - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:46 am:

    Rich, why do you continue to delete my posts???


  26. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:53 am:

    Cincy,

    my agency has had head count reduced considerably in the past six years…I do whatever is necessary to get the job done…we are not living large…the GA needs to do the same…

    e


  27. - PublicServant - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 12:10 pm:

    Cincy’s take apparently is that state programs, whatever they might be, exist in the main for the purpose of funding both the “state employee” special interest, and/or the “corporate” special interests in whose pocket are the politicians of this state, and the taxpayer is the victim.

    Can you specify a few of those programs Cincy?

    Here’s the way a representative democracy works. If you want legislators to do what you want, elect enough of them to carry out your agenda. Short of that, when your (and my) elected representatives create programs to service the citizens of this state, even the one’s you don’t agree with, you pay for them. You seem to want to talk about blame when you should be talking about responsibility here.


  28. - Cook County Commoner - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 12:12 pm:

    Looks like a few more casinos in Illinois will be a good idea to pay off the gov employee pension and healthcare bills. What a great inducement for prospective Illinois employers who can provide good paying jobs and benefits. And the recent failure by the legislature to pass even token work comp reform just adds to Illinois’ woes.


  29. - Koch Cousin Twice Removed - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 12:34 pm:

    “My agency had head count reduced considerably in the past six years…I do whatever is necessary to get the job done…”

    You may get more sympathy from us about your treacherous workload if you weren’t finding time to leave comments on CapitolFax day after day.


  30. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 12:45 pm:

    downhereforyears, I haven’t deleted any of your comments today. Not sure what you’re talking about


  31. - titan - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 12:50 pm:

    Perhaps the next attempt will address teh issue that got us into this mess - the state’s chronic failure to pay the 6% state share into the pension funds.

    The state was obligated to pay a large chunk in … and repeatedly didn’t. There is no solution to the problem without fixing that problem.


  32. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 1:06 pm:

    Loop Lady,

    I don’t know which department is yours (which may be very important), but I have said in the past that the only way to effect real cost saving is not cutting back existing programs, but to not create new ones, and to eliminate some of those that already exist.

    PublicServant,

    High Speed Rail for starters (sorry, Rich).

    Budgetting is esoteric and most of the public does not understand how it works. Do you think the public supports the current overspending? That’s highly unlikely, and the politicians know that the collective memory is short, and their incumbency makes their reelection a virtual lock. Two years is also a long time to carry a memory.

    YDD,

    About Brady, reread all of my posts. This is not just a Democrat problem, Republicans are every bit as guilty when it comes to special interests lobbying, as I said above.

    The staffing shortages reflects that government has bitten off more than it can chew when it comes to projects and programs which are often heavily supported by unions and corporations. Your premise is only valid if all the programs are vital to the public interest. Those that are vital, are being robbed of manpower by the nonessential programs. Public employees should be outraged about it.


  33. - Carlos S. - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 1:49 pm:

    ++The most equitable way to pay for the mess is taxpayers and service cuts, not finding creative ways and euphimisms to renige on past promises for services already rendered++

    I agree with Publicservant: tax pension benefits to the degree that it covers the pension shortfall. Problem solved - benefits are protected per the constitution and as ps points out, there is nothing unfair about raising taxes.


  34. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 1:52 pm:

    @Cincy -

    Then TELL us what the non-vital programs are and let’s cut them.

    I’d start with the sales tax exemption for the newspaper industry, or the “dead tree industry” as CapFax likes to call it. There’s $37 million that could be better spent.


  35. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 2:05 pm:

    YDD,

    High Speed Rail, as I said above. AllKids supplemental above Federal requirements, and the provisions that allow non-residents to claim benefits. DREAM act provisions that allow illegal immigrants benefits. Agree with you on sales tax exemptions, and any other direct subsidy or tax break to a private organization (That would tie Quinn’s hands, huh?).


  36. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 2:09 pm:

    C, I don’t think those suggestions save us much GRF


  37. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 2:11 pm:

    @ cincy
    we are working with with federal,state, and non profits to accomplish our mutal goals…I think that’s a great way to go Btw, I am on furlough today :)0


  38. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 2:13 pm:

    ===C, I don’t think those suggestions save us much GRF===

    Indeed.


  39. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 2:19 pm:

    Schnorf,

    That might be true, but I wasn’t asked to balance the budget, just provide examples of programs to cut. I did that. I guess I could ask the people challenging me to tell us all how THEY would balance the budget, but their arguments always devolve to challenging anthers assertions without offering any alternatives other than the status quo.

    With current federal proposals, and increasing state taxes, people earning over $250k would be taxed at a 62% rate (on average in the US). Those levels were last tried during the Jimmy Carter era. So, even if we were to raise taxes yet again, is there enough possible tax money in this state to balance our budget without harming the lower and middle classes, and slapping usury rates on the well-off or without harming a significant portion of our state businesses and the resultant loss of jobs?


  40. - Jechislo - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 2:46 pm:

    “”Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 11:38 am:

    @Cincy - What promises did Senator Brady make to his donors?”"

    YDD: Just curious. Just exactly what promises did Bill make to his donors that compares to what Quinn did?


  41. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 4:27 pm:

    Worth noting: Excellent Sun-Times story points out Chicago Public School teachers rank 71st in pay in Illinois.


  42. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 4:30 pm:

    @Jechi -

    I think pledging to cut state spending by 10% instead of raising corporate income taxes to adequately fund state government would rank right up there.


  43. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 4:42 pm:

    C, a problem with your approach is that we all (most of us anyway) agree there are programs that can (and probably should) be cut or eliminated, but people for whatever reason seem to conclude that’s all that needs to be done, and that isn’t true. You were arguing much the same before the tax increase. Imagine the discussions and debates that would be taking place in the GA if there had been no tax increase. I’ve told you Rs, not just Ds,, are unwilling to make the kinds of cuts necessary to balance the budget, with or without revenue increases. Doubt me? Look at the non votes on pensions and retiree health care. Think it was just Ds running from those issues?

    You can’t just cut or eliminate a few programs and solve our problems. It still takes major cuts in k-12, human services, and everything else, and there is no appetite in our GA to do much more of that than they have already done, and that isn’t a partisan issue as much as you would like to portray it to be.

    A solution that isn’t doable, or doesn’t work if done, isn’t a solution at all; it’s just an artifice to allow one to say “Here’s a solution”, and divert people from working on real solutions.


  44. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 4:50 pm:

    C, and of course you weren’t asked to balance the budget. That’s real heavy lifting, not a few platitudes and/or drive-by partisan talking points. And that’s why it isn’t done yet, in spite of some pretty good people working at it. If it was as easy as some seem to imagine, it would be long since done.


  45. - PublicServant - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 5:11 pm:

    @Carlos S “I agree with Publicservant: tax pension benefits to the degree that it covers the pension shortfall.”

    And when you get done kicking grandma to the curb, are you going to beat her with a bat too, Carlos?


  46. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 5:50 pm:

    Good OLD Rod and His Cronies

    Jay Bird Hoffman

    Took 2.3 Billion from the SERS Funds
    and spent it on NOTHING BUT WASTE

    and now you want to Pick on the Honest
    Hard Working Public servants

    Who Did what they were “PAID” to do

    Vote all of them OUT AND WAKE UP VOTERS !!!


  47. - DoubleD - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 6:39 pm:

    Until anyone can convince me that this pension argument from the Commercial Club is nothing more than a big money grab aka Corporate American Greed, I will fight with my final breath to defeat it. If you want to sit down and have open and honest discussions I am willing to listen, but ramrod legislation when no one is watching with no time to think about or respond is not representation.

    Meanwhile those of you who argue about the benefits…I would say that an interest free loan for services is a tremendous benefit…or how about I demand the state lower my tax burden or else I will close down shop. Just exactly what is the difference between incentives for job creation and corporate threats?

    Sorry but I am not drinking from the Korporate Kool Aid that the Commercial Club is pushing.


  48. - Nice kid - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:15 pm:

    It’s always interesting when the Tribune criticizes some other entity for not having it’s financial house in order. Pot, meet kettle…


  49. - Jechislo - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 8:44 pm:

    @Carlos S:

    You know, taxing pension benefits does not affect only State workers; it affects Caterpillar workers, State Farm workers, Federal workers, Mitsubishi workers, etc., etc.

    I read somewhere that Chicago has lost 2.1 million people since 1997. Taxing pension benefits will be the last straw and will drive retired people from Illinois like a plague. Boy, that’ll sure fix the problem.

    Cut spending. Cut spending. Cut spending.


  50. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:32 pm:

    Steve Schnorf,

    No need to tell me that balancing the budget is easy. It seems though that ANY mention of any kind of reduced spending causes people to challenge the proposition. If there isn’t enough guts in Springfield and on this blog to consider cutting one small but significant program (like one I mentioned above) then we are doomed.

    I have said for months on this blog that a reasonable one-time borrowing and sunsetted revenue enhancement are doable, and will be supported by the taxpayers if, and only if, meaningful net cuts in spending (no budgetary tricks allowed) are made. Just like a sensible energy policy would include do it all and do it now, so would a sensible budget proposal. Don’t you agree. or are the posters here correct, there are no spending cuts that can ever be considered without being scorned and ridiculed.


  51. - Jechislo - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 9:59 pm:

    Well said Steve Schnorf.

    I know that as long as I choose to live in Illinois, I am going to have to pay more somewhere or do without something the State now provides. I’m willing to do that; but I expect everyone else to also have to sacrifice proportionately.

    I’m not seeing any leadership on this issue on either side of the aisle. This problem is only going to get worse. Without a sensible solution, Illinois will eventually default. And no, I do not support the Federal Government bailing out failing states like California and Illinois.

    We made this mess. We have to be the ones to fix the mess.


  52. - Carlos S. - Wednesday, Jun 1, 11 @ 12:06 am:

    PS, I am looking for solutions so the funds don’t go broke leaving grandma in the lamentable situation you describe. The alternative you propose, higher taxes and diverting most state revenue to pensions, will rightly be rejected by the vast majority of citizens and the politicians who will eventually have to answer to them.

    Jechislo, if you are suggesting cuts, cuts, cuts to the pensions of current state workers and retirees then we I am happy to recoup the money that way as well. Although, it seems that if the pensions are just deferred compensation for work that was already performed in Illinois, as pension advocates argue, the state can tax it irrespective of where the beneficiary lives.


  53. - Bill - Wednesday, Jun 1, 11 @ 5:05 am:

    How do you like us now, Mike?


  54. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Jun 1, 11 @ 7:01 am:

    Carlos, thanks for caring about the financial condition of our pension funds. I care too. Your proposed solution places the burden of our reps not properly funding the pensions not only on the backs of the victims of that state underfunding, the state employees, but on all the senior citizens of the state who have pensions. While I appreciate the concern, your sense of fairness and burden-sharing is, shall we say, unrefined. By the way, deferred compensation is exactly what a pension is, and it’s the reason you got people to work for the state for less money up front then they would have otherwise required.

    You can attempt to shift the blame anyway you want, but I am certain that I’m on the right side in this battle, just as I’m certain that a more generally supported revenue stream is the most fair and equitable way to shoulder the burden of paying for the contractual promises that our representatives made. And I’d wager my proposed solution has a much better chance of being enacted than yours, by far.

    In the end, I’m not going to lose any sleep over your not being convinced of what the just thing to do here is, I’ll continue to fight for the pension that was promised to me, along with the majority of people in this state who feel that anything less than finding an equitable way to pay the money back is out-and-out theft of services, breach of contract, and more importantly, an ethical failure by our representatives.


  55. - Pat Robertson - Wednesday, Jun 1, 11 @ 8:09 am:

    == if the pensions are just deferred compensation for work that was already performed in Illinois, as pension advocates argue, the state can tax it irrespective of where the beneficiary lives.==

    Except that federal law prohibits any state except the state of residence from taxing pensions.


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