* This didn’t get much play anywhere, but the American Federation of Teachers’ president sent out a statement yesterday backing the state unions’ pension reform proposal…
“Illinois has a chance to pass smart and fair pension reform legislation that was developed collaboratively with public employees, who were willing to accept cuts in their retirement benefits to ensure long-term stability of the state’s pension system and its commitment to its employees and retirees. Instead of focusing on blaming, scapegoating and trying to eviscerate public workers—as is the sport in so many states—there was a real effort in the Senate-passed measure to reach consensus with state workers and find a fair solution to fixing the pension system.
“Public employees, who care for the sick, teach our children, and keep bridges and roads safe, make pension contributions throughout their careers and deserve to have retirement security. This proposal guarantees that the state funds pensions and doesn’t walk away from its obligations to hard-working employees. The compromise achieved in Illinois shows that when people are willing to work together in good-faith negotiations, fair solutions are attainable. We hope the Illinois House passes this measure quickly, and it is signed into law.”
That statement is significant because it shows at least one international union is not trying to downplay a compromise effort at the state level. It could even turn out to be a template for other states that are debating the issue.
The newspaper editorial boards have generally been so quick to dismiss the union effort that they haven’t realized what a major step this really was. Unions here have always refused to go backward on pension benefits. The agreement shows that they now understand compromise is necessary and right.
The intense blowhard opposition truly disheartens those of us who have been publicly prodding the unions to come to the table. One of the few non-blowhard editorial pages, the State Journal-Register, wants a few more tweaks…
Cullerton’s plan is the best hope for getting pension legislation to the governor this year and ensuring that education, public safety and health care are better funded. He and Madigan should explore ways to modify Cullerton’s plan to find more savings.
For example, it could be modified so that, like Madigan’s plan, it caps the salary upon which an employee can earn a pension. Another potential change could be to rework the funding schedule, as has been suggested by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.
Illinois cannot afford to let another legislative session end without making some movement toward pension reform. Madigan and Cullerton should begin negotiations immediately and finally bring this issue to a resolution.
It’s hard to disagree with that.
* From Finke…
“As a lawyer-legislator, you can’t just say, ‘Oh, screw the Constitution, let’s just proceed without it.” Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, on whether lawmakers should consider the chances that a pension bill is constitutional before approving it.
* Kadner: A travesty of a mockery of a sham
* Klickna: Coalition plan is fair, effective, constitutional
* Nekritz: Time to do the right thing over the easy thing
* Morrison: We must rethink old ideas about retirement
* Editorial: The time for pension reform is at hand
* Potential impacts of proposed pension plans vary for McDonough County