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Edgar to pension critics: Back off

Wednesday, Dec 5, 2012

* He certainly makes some good points

Former Gov. Jim Edgar says the corporate titans who are pressing state officials to fix Illinois’ deep financial problems need to temper their criticism of the pensions received by government employees.

Edgar, a Republican who has served on some corporate boards, said he thinks some of the wealthy businessmen who have been pushing for a pension overhaul don’t understand that state workers don’t have the same types of compensation packages as those in private business.

“I think people in the private sector don’t understand there are some limitations in the public sector they didn’t have,” Edgar said. “I see what bonuses they get and things state employees don’t have.

“We never had profit-sharing. We never had stock options. We never had bonuses. All we really had was our retirement. They ought to be a little more understanding and not quite as harsh on state workers as they’ve been.”

Ditto for the Tribune editorial board, if you ask me, and nobody did.

* But as Doug Finke reminds us, Edgar was often in favor of increasing retirement benefits

When a governor leaves office, he is required to submit a report to the General Assembly on the state’s condition and make any recommendations he deems advisable.

Some, like former Gov. JIM EDGAR, fulfill this requirement by preparing a book recapping their terms. Edgar called his book “Meeting the Challenge” which recounted his 1991-1999 term as governor.

On page 29, Edgar summarized what happened with state employees. While Edgar reduced the number of employees, the book noted that “a concerted effort was made to improve state employee benefits and make a career in government service more attractive.”

“The governor approved the most significant increase in pension benefits for state workers in a quarter century,” it went on. “As a result, Illinois moved from next to last among states in pension benefits to near the national average.”

The book also noted Edgar agreed to other improvements, like adding vision and dental coverage and long-term care insurance.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:06 am:

    I have a question. Is our legislature the highgest paid in the country? Do they have the best pensions and health care?

  2. - just sayin' - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:09 am:

    Shocker from a guy who started drawing a bloated state pension at 55.

    Is anyone not sick of Jim Edgar? I mean besides Kirk Dillard.

  3. - mokenavince - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:12 am:

    For a Republican Edgar sure sounds like a liberal.

    Shows how far right the Republicans have gone. He sounds like a guy who never signed Norquists pledge,and could think for himself .

    Just the kind of guy we all would vote for.

  4. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:24 am:

    I’ve never had any interest in listening to a bunch of fat cat millionaires with their own outrageous salaries and pensions complaining about the $3,000 a month I will be eligible for when I retire. When they want to reduce their own salaries and pensions to my level, then maybe I’ll listen. Until then I’ll file their suggestions where they belong - the trash can.

  5. - Plutocrat03 - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:25 am:

    He increased benefits without devising a way to pay for it. Sounds like a modern democrat to me.

  6. - Siyotanka - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:30 am:

    I believe that Mr. Edgar when he left office, also left a large “rainy day” fund surplus…was it 20 million??? Sooo other than the next Gov’s “Build (bankrupt)Illinois” plan has any other Gov left a surplus these days…Hum?

  7. - Former Merit Comp Slave - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:32 am:

    Pluto he did devise a way to pay for it….the state chose not to pay for it as it was clearly laid out to pay, for years. And while I’m a life long democrat, he left the state in the best fiscal condition it’s been in for decades.

  8. - BMAN - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:36 am:

    Edgar has earned more respect than Quinn or the other fat cat millionaires. It is about time a decent person spoke out against the attack on public employee pensions.

  9. - M Smith - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:36 am:

    When Edgar left office, the state was not yet required to do full disclosure financials which came about around 2002 or 2003? He should have had some clue about the lack of funding in the pension system due to the skipping of payments.

  10. - Plutocrat03 - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:46 am:

    As was pointed out by M Smith, Illinois was underfunding the pension at the same time that benefits were being expanded. It’s not like all was well when Edgar left office and those ‘other’ guys messed it all up. He allowed the hollowing of the pension system on his watch while buying votes with the touted benefit increases.

  11. - Loop Lady - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 10:59 am:

    he’s right…I agree with the former Governor…read in the NYT that RI will be the first State to enact pension reform…it will be interesting to watch how it shakes out and the implications for pension reform in IL…

  12. - cover - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 11:04 am:

    – He allowed the hollowing of the pension system on his watch while buying votes with the touted benefit increases. –

    The pension enhancement took effect in 1998, the same year that Gov. Edgar did NOT run for a third term. Although he has since toyed with the idea of running again, Edgar has not appeared on any ballot since that pension enhancement.

  13. - Crime Fighter - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 11:12 am:

    I see threads alluding to “benefit increases” and “enhancements” causing the pension shortfall. With the exception of the IPI, GOP, Quinn, the Civic Federation and the Trib, hasn’t this presumption been debunked a long time ago by math and facts?

  14. - Irish - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 11:16 am:

    Thank you governor Edgar, for being straight forward and truthful. Something not found in governor’s since. And thank you fopr standing up for the rank and file state workers who’s pensions would NOT make a story in newspapers.

  15. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 11:25 am:

    The fallacy with Edgar’s arguments is that the vast majority of private sector employees do not get profit-sharing, bonuses, and stock options.

  16. - Team Sleep - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 11:29 am:

    I love Governor Edgar and wish he would run again for something, but IMHO he is not the right spokesperson for this issue. He is collecting a hefty pension, gets his own personal office and has a lucrative fellowship with the U of I system. His pension, job and perks cost the state well over a quarter-million dollars and likely upwards of a half-million dollars. His pension could be slashed by half and he’d still be sitting on easy street. Many former (and current) top officials’s pensions are causing a lot of the strain on the system. I don’t think it does regular state retorted much good for the top pensioners to come out in support of the status quo or very small changes. It’s akin to Citigroup wanting less oversight or lower banking taxes.

  17. - Ready To Get Out - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 11:34 am:

    Just Observing…

    The “vast majority of the private sector employees” that are complaining the loudest and most often, flooding the newspapers and airwaves and “offering” their plans to the GA are the ones who get profit-sharing, bonuses and stock options.

  18. - Meanderthal - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 11:43 am:

    “Shocker from a guy who started drawing a bloated state pension at 55″.
    Then took a cushy academic position with the University of Illinois that pays close to $200 grand a year.

  19. - wert - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 12:01 pm:

    And a large number of private sector workers have Social Security plus 401(k) matching. Many government employees in Illinois have no Social Security and there is no matching of any payments which might be made to deferred compensation plans. Not to mention that salaries in many fileds are lower than those in the private sector. Those private sector employees who are whining are dogs in the manger.

  20. - Sgtstu - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 12:27 pm:

    Meanderthal - Wednesday - You do not like the fact the man as made a good honest living for him and his family. You are nothing but jelious. Governor Edgar I would like to say God bless you and yours. Thank you

  21. - reformer - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 12:35 pm:

    Edgar is specifically referring to the corporate titans who do enjoy the bonuses and stock options.

    Edgar did sign the pension ramp-up in 1995, which codified underfunding for the next 15 years.

  22. - Lay Person - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 12:40 pm:

    Yes Governor Edgar was a great fiscal Republican(middle of the road conservative) for Illinois. He did leave office with a huge surplu for Illinois. His fiscal strategies should be reviewed and incorporated by both parties in this Great State. Illinois will be one of the first to fall if the Fiscal Cliff occurs. Everyone should consut, compromise and implement changes to pay off the debt Illinois citizens are facing today. I wish more politicians were of Govenor Edga’s mold.

  23. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 12:49 pm:

    Good for Edgar.

    Fahner and the Tribbies talk about my neighbors like they’re parasites.

    They should look in the mirror.

  24. - mid-level - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 1:50 pm:

    What about…

    – 401k with company match;
    – Christmas and company funded events;
    – discounts on items where they work;
    – flex-time and/or work from home options;
    – health club memberships or stipends;

  25. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 2:06 pm:

    Sticking to the facts..
    Hard to believe, but the 1994 pension law with the infamous ramp was viewed as “reform” back in its day (though we didn’t throw that word around willy-nilly back then) as it was an improvement over the past.
    Secondly, the benefit changes Edgar supported back then were not generous-as the article notes, they brought IL from the cellar to mid pack-and they were funded, in the case of teachers by member, district, and specified State approps. Then Blago and his band of fiscal felons (Filans?) rolled in and took the State funding requirement off the books right about when they borrowed that first $10 billion.

  26. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 2:11 pm:

    === The “vast majority of the private sector employees” that are complaining the loudest and most often, flooding the newspapers and airwaves and “offering” their plans to the GA are the ones who get profit-sharing, bonuses and stock options. ===

    Perhaps true, but an argument can be made that those “fat-cats” are the ones that have the money to get that message out. Whether or not you agree with that message is a different story, but there are certainly is a good chunk of average Illinois citizens that agree with that message.

  27. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 2:17 pm:

    And a “good chunk of average Illinois citizens” that don’t.

  28. - sal-says - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 3:13 pm:

    As a State retiree, I appreciate Edgar’s comments. My college roommate & I got about same grades; got engr degrees same day. He started in private $15 higher than I did. Later years he sold his house for 500K; we sold ours for $130K. Private DOES make a difference. When he retired a couple of years after me, his retirement gave him his same annual income as when he was working (!); my retirement income; far less. Just sayin’. Don’t cry for me, still able to live comfortably, but other than the egregious few stories the media plays up, no State retirees are living all that large.

  29. - geronimo - Wednesday, Dec 5, 12 @ 6:24 pm:

    The Fat Cats who have the means to get the message out look ridiculous in their financial gluttony. How much is enough for them that they begrudge a public employee making a tiny fraction of what they earn, yet they want to diminish that! For what purpose? If they’re so concerned about our deficit, they’re the ones who can help fix it, not someone raising a family on 50 or 60 K. I’m embarrassed for them to read about such unabashed greed and sourpus attitudes toward plain old hardworking people who often struggle with their bills. Makes me think they’d rob the Salvation Army kettle when the attendant isn’t looking……….shame. As in it’s a Wonderful Life, real life Mr. Potters.

    At least Jim Edgar is based in the reality of what public workers earn.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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