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Sun-Times sees optimism, Durkin says wait

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* The Sun-Times editorializes on pension reform

Both scenarios being batted around by the state’s four legislative leaders and a 10-member pension committee rely on cutting retirement benefits, mostly by reducing annual cost-of-living increases for retired teachers, state workers, legislators and university employees.

The Republicans are right to push for more than $138 billion, to go for the greatest savings possible. This is the Legislature’s one chance to get this right. But push too hard and retirees are hurt unnecessarily and the final result will never pass.

The compromising begins with Senate President John Cullerton, who last week officially became one of the biggest impediments to getting a deal done. Cullerton said he embraced the $138 billion plan but he also made clear that he thinks pension reform is basically a waste of time. Cullerton said the state’s $100 billion unfunded pension liability wasn’t a “crisis” after all and suggested that Illinois could manage just fine without pension cost-cutting. That’s called talking out of both sides of your mouth.

But this week Cullerton is willing to play ball. He says he’s game for going higher than $138 billion — which is essential because that’s what the other three legislative leaders, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, want. Cullerton’s spokeswoman told us that “$138 billion seems to be the baseline” and “he’s looking for some fair way to get it higher.”

Getting from a baseline to a new, agreed plan is a delicate balancing act. But when we talk to lawmakers close to the negotiations we sense something almost unheard of in politics: optimism.

I didn’t hear a lot of optimism yesterday when I made a quick round of calls. But if the four leaders are committed to going higher than $138 billion, that could be a reason for some hope.

* Then again, maybe not

“Next week, we got three days and I don’t anticipate yet again that much being accomplished,” said State Rep. Jim Durkin, minority leader. […]

Leader Durkin expects Quinn to miss several more paychecks.

“We can come back sometime before the first of the year or come back at the beginning of the year. I want to make sure we do it once, we do it right,” said Durkin.

What’s most interesting here is that Durkin appears willing to take the fall if nothing happens next week.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


34 Comments
  1. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:28 am:

    They say they “want” it, but will they vote for it when the day comes?

    We’ve seen that play before.


  2. - Downstater - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:38 am:

    Cullerton and the Democrats just don’t get it. Spend. Spend. Spend. Tax. Tax. Tax. That is all they know and do.


  3. - Enough already! - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:42 am:

    How about a common sense proposal aimed at the politically connected? If you earn a platinum pension, you do not receive any pension benefits until you actually retire — we have hogs being paid great pensions while working full-time jobs and accumulating credits for a second pension. Additionally, put an end to the pensioners who work a second position for one day or two weeks and get an immediate boost in pension due to their minimal work in a higher paid position.

    STOP LETTING POLS GAME THE SYSTEM.


  4. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:42 am:

    === Leader Durkin expects Quinn to miss several more paychecks ===

    Well, it doesn’t appear that the Governor is missing any paychecks. Maybe this is why he still isn’t engaged in the process:

    http://ledger.illinoiscomptroller.com/ledger/?LinkServID=FE957D06-07CA-A3B3-6477FA2870A31632&Issue_Year=2013&EmpId=&Agency=&Last_Name=&Position=GOVERNOR&BegRange=&EndRange=&StartRec=1&EndRec=20&GroupBy=Agency


  5. - Raising Kane - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:45 am:

    Anonymous, because his salary wasn’t vetoed, he still gets paid but he has switched his salary from direct deposit to a paper check and those are still still sitting in the Comptroller’s office waiting to be picked up. So, I believe he has 4 checks sitting over there.


  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:47 am:

    Pension “reform” became a “crisis” in some minds only when the state became fiscally responsible and started making full contributions.

    The Sun-Times is getting excited a little prematurely. The state and federal Constitutions will be hard to overcome by the plans under consideration.

    Years later, after court, back to square one.


  7. - anon - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:57 am:

    downstater..not sure what part of downstate you are from but “Spend. Spend. Spend. Tax. Tax. Tax” has been a downstate success story–we spend it in downstate and we tax chicagoans..


  8. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:58 am:

    Raising Kane,

    Thanks for the clarification.


  9. - Bill White - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:26 pm:

    I believe the General Assembly should wait until those two IL Supreme Court decisions are announced, namely the decision regarding changes or reductions to retiree health care and the Governor’s line item veto case.

    The language of the eventual pension bill should be drafted to best conform with the language of those two decisions.

    Minority leader Durkin is spot on, here: “I want to make sure we do it once, we do it right.”


  10. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:27 pm:

    lol, Anonymous 11:42 and 11:58, you really have to start paying more attention. Especially if you’re an R trying to make a point.


  11. - Ray del Camino - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:35 pm:

    What my fellow “downstater” appears not to understand is that Illinois taxes its citizens less than surrounding states do (easy to compare income tax rates), and that we spend less on state government operations than most states do–even red states. Just repeating “Democrats tax and spend” ’cause it sounds right does not advance the argument.


  12. - foster brooks - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:41 pm:

    I want to see a picture of those checks in the comptrollers office.


  13. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:46 pm:

    Isn’t January when the cola for the calendar year kicks in for state retirees. What’s up with that?
    Pass a bill before the cola and make it effective before the increased checks go out? Make it retroactive and take back the money? Start the year out with the cola then cut the checks later in the year. None of these sound too appetizing. These are, for the most part, low to middle-middle class pensioners we are talking about. I sure hope they are paying attention because however unconstitutional the final product may be, there is no guarantee of a stay. And because an election year (we’re already in it, really) is when citizens have the greatest chance of being heard by elected politicians.


  14. - reformer - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:46 pm:

    == Pension “reform” became a “crisis” in some minds only when the state became fiscally responsible and started making full contributions. ==

    Astute observation that summarizes the issue well in one sentence.

    Ray: I’m afraid it doesn’t do any good to offer the inconvenient truth to those who firmly believe IL is a big spending, big taxing state. I’ve never encountered one Republican who, when you prove IL ranks 50th in number of state employees per capita, admits he might have his facts a little wrong.


  15. - Norseman - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:57 pm:

    My money is on the proposition that nothing gets done next week.


  16. - Rusty618 - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:01 pm:

    If the legislators keep insisting that the only way to “save” money is to reduce pension benefits, they need to keep working. Other states have tried this and lost in court. It is time to look in another direction to “save” money.


  17. - a drop in - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:04 pm:

    —I want to see a picture of those checks in the comptrollers office. —

    and I want to see the shoebox they are in.


  18. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:09 pm:

    Can the Illinois Supreme Court issue a kind of a “Friend of the GA” FYI on whether the current bills under consideration appear to violate the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution? Might save the state some time in arriving at a Constitutional solution to the DEBT problem that was masked by pension borrowing for so long. I’m thinking something along the lines of “You guys are barking up the wrong tree with the currently proposed pension modifications unless we’re missing something here…Save yourself and the state some grief and a huge waste of time, and fix the state’s structural deficit. Ok? Thanks. Bye.” Judges?


  19. - Bill White - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:11 pm:

    Q: Can the Illinois Supreme Court issue a kind of a “Friend of the GA” FYI

    A: No they cannot do that. At least IMHO

    Which is why those two pending cases are so very important to all of this.


  20. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:14 pm:

    Oh well Bill, I guess we’ll have to do it the hard way then…


  21. - reformer - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:15 pm:

    The AG can issue opinions, however.


  22. - Earl Shumaker - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:22 pm:

    Wordslinger, you are absolutely correct when you wrote, pension “reform” became a “crisis” in some minds only when the state became fiscally responsible and started making full contributions.

    I do hope that you are correct when you say that The state and federal Constitutions will be hard to overcome by the plans under consideration.

    I am so concerned about the amount of corruption we have in this state and Chicago. I just hope the Supreme Court judges have the integrity and backbone to slap these legislators down for wanting to trash the US and Illinois Constitutions


  23. - kimocat - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:25 pm:

    I just got a robo-call from Henry Bayer. There must at least be some fear that a bill will be brought up.


  24. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:26 pm:

    So can I, reformer. We’ve already got Maidar’s detailed opinion. What’s one more lawyer’s opinion going to do to sway the GA?


  25. - TCA - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:58 pm:

    [downstater..not sure what part of downstate you are from but “Spend. Spend. Spend. Tax. Tax. Tax” has been a downstate success story–we spend it in downstate and we tax chicagoans..]

    I beg to differ. I do not see any State efforts to attract business and industry anywhere south of I-80 much less south of I-64. Take a look at per-student spending….a huge disparity. The majority of the General Assembly and Statewide elected officers can see the Sears while they drink their morning coffee. That should tell you where all the money is going.


  26. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:03 pm:

    –The majority of the General Assembly and Statewide elected officers can see the Sears while they drink their morning coffee. That should tell you where all the money is going.–

    That’s a hilariously absurd statement on so many levels.

    I think we all should wean ourselves from the pipe dream of state government “attracting business and industry.” Those generally are nothing more than very expensive press releases for deals that were going to happen, anyway.

    When did that become the business of government, anyway?

    Provide an educated workforce, good schools and universities and superior infrastructure and you’re in business. The rest is just ego-tripping spin.


  27. - Nearly Normal - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:15 pm:

    “see the Sears”–Don’t you mean the Willis? Sears sold the building years ago and the Willis Group bought the naming rights.


  28. - Frank - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:49 pm:

    I agree with Rich’s observation tha Durkin seems willing to be the fall guy if no vote is taken next week…and that is a pretty interesting development. Maybe he’s throwing a bone to his downstaters. And maybe he senses that just like in the Spring with SB1, a majority of the HGOP caucus will vote against the “compromise” if it’s called during Veto Session. That’s probably not something he wants to have happen on his first big vote as leader and it won’t help him raise badly needed cash for next year.


  29. - RNUG - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:05 pm:

    -wordslinger- and -bill white- are dead on …

    -norseman- is probably right about no action, but if there is action, it sounds like Cullerton is now willing to sign on to a more unconstitutional bill in order to be sure the ISC knocks it down.


  30. - RNUG - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:08 pm:

    Earl Shumaker @ 1:22 pm:

    In order for the ISC to rule something like the bills under consideration constitutional, the ISC will have to ignore almost 30 years of precedent set by their own rulings


  31. - Charlie. - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:09 pm:

    Cassandra at 12:46. Thanks for pointing out about the low class pensioners. I always figured I must be one as I receive $1000.00 a month in pension. A fellow tried to push me off the sidewalk at the Post Office this a.m.. He must have thought I was low class trying to push me into the gutter. I sure could use that $30.00 a month raise in Jan. If I don`t get it maybe you could float a low classer a loan.


  32. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:42 pm:

    Charlie, maybe you should spend tomorrow writing to your legislators or even stop by the office. Because if any of these current proposals goes thru, and sticks, all state retirees will be slipping down quite a bit in the income rankings over time.


  33. - Charlie - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:56 pm:

    Cassandra: To be very honest with you I have written and talked till I`m blue in the face. I really believe the majority only care about staying in office by what ever means or which way the political winds are blowing.


  34. - kimocat - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 5:20 pm:

    RNUG — I would love to hope you are right about Cullerton.


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