* Greg Hinz…
In an extraordinary series of developments in the past 24 hours, gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner and other figures on the GOP right lambasted the deal that was reached by legislative leaders on the day before Thanksgiving, saying it’s way too little and likely to lead to a tax hike. Joining them was the state party’s nominal leader, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who this morning put out a statement saying the plan “relies heavily on accounting gimmicks (and) fails to prevent a permanent income tax hike.”
But at almost the exact moment Mr. Kirk was issuing his statement, Ty Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, generally considered Chicago’s most influential big-business group, was telling me the “damned good bill” has his full support — and that Mr. Rauner is seeking the politically impossible. [Emphasis added.]
Fahner is right about that highlighted point. I take no position on whether this is a “good bill” or not, but Rauner is most definitely seeking something that absolutely cannot pass at this point in Illinois history, or maybe ever.
I mean, for crying out loud, a majority of House Republicans voted against Speaker Madigan’s pension bill last spring. How the heck does anyone expect the two parties to back the far more radical Rauner position? No more COLAs ever for retirees and every active employee tossed into a 401(k)? Yeah, that’ll happen this week, or next month or next year, or even next decade. Right.
Mr. Fahner, in an interview this morning, strongly disputed Mr. Rauner’s position, and indicated he would go to Springfield tomorrow to testify for the bill.
The measure “could be better. It is not perfect,” Mr. Fahner said. “But this is a damned good bill, period. . . .We are enthusiastically supporting it,” pending only a final reading of final bill language.
Mr. Rauner’s approach, which among other things could prevent those already working from getting any inflation adjustment at all in their pensions for the rest of their lives, “would not pass in 50 years — or two years, if he becomes governor,” Mr. Fahner said. “Whatever his perfect bill might be, he’s totally wrong in terms of its practicality” of passing a Democrat-dominated General Assembly.
* Rauner’s opposition is beginning to make me think of the fantasies spun by the DC tea partiers about Obamacare before they shut down the government. It’s either 100 percent their way or the whole thing must crash and burn. And that ain’t no way to run a railroad.
…Adding… From the IMA…
For years, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association along with many other voices have been calling for significant reform of the state’s pension systems that are threatening the financial health and well being of our state. Illinois currently has the worst-funded pension system in the nation with an unfunded pension liability approaching $100 billion and an annual payment that eats up nearly twenty percent of the state’s general fund budget. In addition to forcing reductions in investment in education, transportation, and other critical state programs, Illinois’ severely underfunded pension systems are a major impediment to job creators.
This week, the General Assembly is finally poised to act after Governor Quinn and the four legislative leaders reached agreement on a pension reform package that will save $160 billion over the next thirty years while reducing our annual pension payment by $1.5 billion. It will result in a 100 percent, fully funded pension system by 2044.
Passage of this pension reform plan is tenuous because of vociferous opposition from public sector labor unions who are strongly opposed to changes that will limit Cost of Living Adjustments, increase the retirement age, impose a cap on pensionable wages, prohibit pensions and health care from being collectively bargained, and create an optional new 401K system for state employees to replace the defined benefit program. Labor unions are unleashing every possible resource to stop this pension reform plan.
The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association strongly supports pension reform and its imperative that Illinois legislators hear from the business community TODAY OR TOMORROW about the urgent need for pension reform. Please call your respective member of the House of Representatives and Senate and ask them to VOTE YES on pension reform.