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Something’s missing here

Tuesday, Jul 8, 2014

* From a Tribune editorial entitled “How the pols who caused this crisis can save Illinois from ruin“…

A better option is for the politicians who own — sorry, we should say run — Illinois governance to declare right now that they will put before us an amendment to refine the state constitution’s retiree benefits protection wording.

The pols also should guarantee that they finally will take budget pressure off taxpayers by eliminating layers of costly Illinois bureaucracy. Seven thousand governments? More than 800 school districts?

And the pols should finally adopt the structural budget reforms and massive cost-cutting that civic watchdog groups and other constructive voices have impatiently advocated for eons.

Changing the state Constitution probably won’t produce any significant near-term savings. And as the Sun-Times rightly notes in its own editorial entitled “Time for pension reform 2.0“…

One possibility would be to amend the constitution to modify the pension protection clause — not eliminating it but weakening it some. However, this is a lengthy process and may still not protect the state legally if it reduces benefits already promised.

The Sun-Times offered no other ideas of its own.

And you can eliminate some local governments, but the services still have to be provided. So the savings aren’t truly gigantic. And state savings are practically nil.

And massive cost-cutting plans by civic watchdog groups? Where?

* Here’s Madeleine Doubek in an op-ed called “It’s time for a real pension fix in Illinois“…

This is a crisis, and we’re teetering on the cliff. We either raise taxes and drive more of us to move away, or we change the constitution, or we change laws to control double-dipping and too-generous pension benefits approved by local school board members and other officials.

Or all of the above. Waiting any longer is pure insanity.

Again, changing the Constitution probably won’t work for existing retirees and workers. And, keep in mind that the already passed Tier 2 benefits are a net donor to the pension funds. Yep, the recipients will get less than what is put in. Kill that off and you’ve actually cost the state money.

You can stop prospective double-dipping, but current double-dipping can’t be stopped after that ruling. And it’s not a huge fiscal issue anyway.

* School districts, however, most certainly can be legislatively reined in on their end of career salaries. The GA has already done this once.

But wouldn’t a more market-style approach be to begin making school districts pick up their own pension payments? They’d watch those salaries a whole lot more closely if it cost them real money down the road. And, since it’s probably not possible to cut benefits, that’s where the only real savings will be realized. Illinois, as I’ve told you before, is almost alone in the nation for being responsible for teacher pension payments.

Why is nobody else talking about this?

- Posted by Rich Miller        


103 Comments
  1. - William j Kelly - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:28 pm:

    Thank you! It is about time someone came out and said it! Why would we expect the people who are responsible for the pension failure and every other failure (crime, education, job) to miraculously one day be the people to solve the problem?


  2. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:29 pm:

    –Why is nobody else talking about this?–

    Because it’s been a sweet deal for the suburbs, aka, the place where editorial page writers live.

    Much of the value in suburban homes is tied up in the perceptions of the school systems. Good schools, rising home values, money-making sales.

    If you can tax yourself to provide current top salaries and programs, while laying off legacy costs of former employees on the state as a whole, that’s a sweet deal.


  3. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    What about an amendment to our constitution that doesn’t allow the GA to tamper with funds that are protected as citizen’s constitutional right?

    If that was in place, we wouldn’t be here right now.


  4. - Cassiopeia - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:33 pm:

    The reason no one is talking about it is because the legislators don’t want attention drawn to what they all know needs to be done and that is to make local school boards responsible for their teachers.

    This will likely be done after the election along with some other constitutionally permissible tweaks. TRS is the huge problem that should not be the state’s responsibility.


  5. - Diogenes in DuPage - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:34 pm:

    IMHO, Madigan and the Legislature will now surely move to transition new pension costs to school boards and the board of higher ed. Not only is this a market-driven solution to reigning in costs, but also the best way to make State costs for pennons legally manageable.


  6. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:34 pm:

    === Why is nobody else talking about this? ===

    Cuz it’s too difficult address. Easier to talk about non-issues.


  7. - Obamas Puppy - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:39 pm:

    === Why is nobody else talking about this? === Its because it is a PROPERTY TAX INCREASE!!! Look at the roll calls from last year if that does not answer your question I do not know what will. Lets just continue to try and figure out how we can rip people off and break promises so corp can decide how much of a bonus they want to give to their CEO and a hedge fund manager can buy his 10th house.


  8. - Diogenes in DuPage - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:40 pm:

    pennons –> pensions
    The State created TRS and SURS in the 1930s after Social Security was created. Though there were many local school boards (regulated by ISBE) and IBHE, the State took on the Employer role — due to their primary funding and regulation. Now with education funding at the lowest percentage levels ever, and with the current economic climate, transitioning these pension costs to schools boards and universities makes sense — and will more easily gain public support.


  9. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:41 pm:

    1) No, changing the constitution won’t help with past retirees. But isn’t it still very valuable for stopping the bleeding, let alone the symbolism of correcting a terrible mistake?

    2) The idea that Democrats are going to have a civil war over forcing school districts to pick up their pension costs strikes me as a non-starter. The most you might get is a small contribution, and even that would breath new life into the state GOP. I don’t know if this is why the civic groups and pundits don’t propose it, but I can’t see it happening.

    3) How much would it take in sequester to make up the Madigan law’s savings? Take that figure, slice it in half, sequester that amount and raise taxes/fees by the “half” value. Combine that with the change in the Constitution and - this is important - something that puts some distance between politicians and union negotiations: e.g., at the state level, have a 50-50 bipartisan appointed commission appointed to staggered 10 year terms do the negotiating. FDR never envisioned government workers forming unions and then having such immense power over the representatives of the public. That might help sell the pain to taxpayers.


  10. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:47 pm:

    It wasn’t proposed by a first-year back-bencher during the recent pension negotiations. It still didn’t get done, ergo it must have been a tougher sell than what did happen. Will it re-surface. It didn’t look like there were any R votes for it at the time (course, my party hasn’t voted for much of anything lately). Will the election outcome change that? If Rauner wins, can he ask the GA to put more financial pressure than now on the local school districts (although I agree the way Madigan proposed it wasn’t a killer for the locals) by transferring normal costs to support a pension system he says he wants to disappear? And if he does, won’t Madigan demand a lot of R votes for it? If Quinn is re-elected, then what changes in the R equation from before? R votes to bail out a D gov, at Madigan’s request. Doesn’t seem likely to me.

    So, even though it seems a common sense part of a solution, I don’t take that to mean it will happen. And, there are other things that can be constitutionally done to get to 80 or 90% funding by 2045. Maybe they will be easier votes.


  11. - Phil - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:49 pm:

    And how realistic is it to assume that a constitutional amendment weakening the impairment clause would be approved by the voters? An extremely modest referendum to require a 3/5th vote of the GA for pension enhancement legislation failed two years ago!


  12. - walker - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:49 pm:

    Wordslinger has it correct.

    Madigan has identified this as one of many things which should be done over time, to help fix the state’s fiscal situation, for at least five years now. He just has not been able to force those things thru, despite his real power and levers. The “if he really wanted it, it would have happened” is a myth. The legislators in both parties still have to be convinced, to take the hard votes, either by their constituents, or by their own arithmetic and logic.


  13. - Jack Handy - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:51 pm:

    The goal of the Legislative branch is to make the Judicial branch order them to do what they do not want to do themselves.


  14. - Phenomynous - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    I suspect we will see a serious cost shift proposal in the near future. Especially if SB 1 is unconstitutional. The reason no one wants to discuss it is because it would require the local to pick up the cost through property taxes and that is incredibly unpopular.

    Illinois is already heavily reliant on property taxes for education funding.

    I think there will be a huge initiative to reform the tax code, extend the current income tax rate, implement a cost shiftt, increase the homestead exemption, and change education funding. All the pieces are there, we just have to wait until there is no other option…and that time is coming soon considering the gaping FY16 budget holes.

    Then again, maybe not :)


  15. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    Another interesting question to ask would be what some of these suburban districts are banking.

    In FY 13, OPRF 200 had revenues of $77.7 million and expenditures of $70.8 million, for a surplus of $6.9 million, raising its ending balance to $119.4 million.

    Nearly 93% of revenues are local; state funds are only 5%. But you can see why we’d rather not talk about any pension shift. We’ll cover our expenses, bank our own money and let the state cover the pensions.


  16. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 2:59 pm:

    The Constitutional Amendment that the Trib and others so desperately wish for would do nothing to solve our current problem. Our current problem is $100,000,000,000 in debt that has to be amortized at 7.75% (or more) that is due and owing whether the Constitution is amended or not. As was pointed out earlier somewhere on the site today, the new normal cost is already going down because of Tier 2..


  17. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    @Rich -

    I flat-out told the Tribune editorial board that amending the Constitution would not fix the problem. Even Constitutional amendments cannot be ex post facto.

    I raised serious doubts that even the court’s Republicans would overturn precedent when it comes to pensions, at least for political reasons, noting that both Karmeier and Garman have seats that are saturated with public employees.

    I will also note that Justice Thomas is a former member of the NFL player’s union, and if anyone understands the importance of upholding employment contracts, it is professional athletes.

    Finally, let me remind folks what I said a few times: many mistakenly assume that if the court overturns pensions, they can just go back to the Cullerton compromise and pass it. Don’t bet on it. The unions won’t have much incentive to agree to that bill if Quinn’s measure is soundly rejected by the courts.


  18. - Stones - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    The first thing people need to realize is that there is not a short term fix for this mess. It was created over time and now the legislature is going to need to dig out of this hole (they created) over time.

    I think an amendment to the constitution (albeit a long 2 year process) would have a good probability of passage and is one step. Secondly, offering higher paid tier one employees some incentive to retire (with a moratorium on rehiring their positions except for essential) would allow the state to utilize those salaries for their pension obligation. Finally, some form of pension shifting for school pensions might make some sense.


  19. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:05 pm:

    Schnorf I’m convinced that the Tribbies and others think there’s a gizmo that states can cobble together to walk away from already contracted debt.

    I don’t know why they think that, but there is none.


  20. - school bored - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:06 pm:

    If responsibility for pensions gets transferred to local school boards, then their must be consideration given to local authorities to choose what kind of pension plan they wish to offer.

    It is completely unfair and illogical for the state to be able to mandate what sort of retirement a teacher will receive then force the local body to pay for it!

    THis is ludicrous! I agree the local bodies should be paying this stuff but you have to allow them to choose what sort of retirement plan to offer……you can imagine that these plans in many cases will become more modest.


  21. - No name - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    Will people PLEASE use the correct “reining” in instead of “reigning” in.


  22. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    ===you can imagine that these plans in many cases will become more modest. ===

    For whom? Current teachers and retirees can’t be touched. Prospective teachers will be net gains for the systems.

    Your arguments are a complete red herring.


  23. - Frenchie Mendoza - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:09 pm:

    The Trib — and most likely Rauner, too — is peeved that current state employees can’t be punished for the sins of the GA. Most of the pension rhetoric revolves around two simultaneous ideas: punishment and sour grapes.

    Punish the folks who earn — or have earned — the pensions. A

    And sour grapes because “those state employees get it but I don’t. I suffer, so you should, too. You try getting squadouche like me. Woe is me. Ergo, woe for you, too.”

    Doubek’s (tiresome) rhetorical histrionics reinforce these positions — although she appears close to going off the rails with that op-ed.


  24. - Diogenes in DuPage - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:12 pm:

    —Will people PLEASE use the correct “reining” in instead of “reigning” in.— (No Name)

    Mea culpa. Temporary brain freeze.


  25. - Just Trying to Survive - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:14 pm:

    Legislating punishing penalties on innocent workers who had no part in this theft is sick and terribly selfish. No one I know as a retiree is living as well as when they were working for their income. How could that possibly be if everyone says public retirees are raking it in? How many public retirees are living like Rauner anyway? How we all get painted with such a wide brush is laughable. It’s as wrong as assuming anyone who works in the private sector is the equivalent of Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. Or do you? The Civvies and Tribbies have done an A+ job of distortion and brainwashing. Got to give them that.


  26. - Eugene - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:15 pm:

    Why don’t they talk about shifting pension costs to local schools? Because without a big bump in state funding of education, shifting pension costs to schools equals property tax increases or cuts to school programs which no one (except for the Koch Policy Institute) would want.


  27. - Diogenes in DuPage - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    —If responsibility for pensions gets transferred to local school boards, then their must be consideration given to local authorities to choose what kind of pension plan they wish to offer.—-
    The only way this gets agreement is for the State to relax the other 800 pages of State regulations on schools. Those have a cost, too.


  28. - Bluefish - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:19 pm:

    If legislators transfer responsibility for the teachers’ normal cost to the school districts are they also willing to lift PTELL so they can pay for it? Even though some districts are sitting pretty and can afford the added pension costs (as Wordslinger points out), many others are not in that position.


  29. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:21 pm:

    Schnorf and Word, the Tribbies were bedazzled by that ridiculous Sidley “analysis” that said benefit cuts would be permitted under the Constitution because something is better than nothing, or something…


  30. - walker - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:28 pm:

    Everything is piling deeper and deeper in Illinois. The Trib editorial board, and Reboot’s pros just seem more and more clueless. Time to realize silver bullets won’t kill this beast.

    Just when we think we might not drown, they pour more water on the cloth.


  31. - Frenchie Mendoza - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:29 pm:

    If Rauner wins — what’s to prevent him from terminating employment for everyone with a pension? If folks want their jobs back, they have to go through the state hiring process and agree to a 401K?

    Is this Rauner’s plan?


  32. - Ducky LaMoore - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:35 pm:

    Anyone else find it entertaining that a bankrupt newspaper wants to steal pensions? Seems like a “If we can’t have them, no one can!” sort of mentality.


  33. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:39 pm:

    Personnel rules requiring firings to be for cause for non-probationary employees.


  34. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:39 pm:

    Why isn’t being talked about….

    Because it is going to be brutal for a lot of school districts because it is going to be really hard to raise property taxes in this housing/economic environment. Also fast growing districts (like mine) that did a lot of building would then have the double whammy of retiring building bonds and increased expenses.


  35. - Bill White - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:41 pm:

    Bruce Rauner cannot fire tenured teachers (TRS)

    Also, my understanding is that IMRF pension funding is really not in desperate straits


  36. - John Twig - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:43 pm:

    Amending pension protection clause to “weaken it”?

    Although I am not a lawyer, it seems to me that the essence of the current constitutional language concerning pensions is that once the State enters into a contract with an employee, the State must then honor that contract. (I have always pretty much assumed that this is how an orderly society works.)

    To “weaken” the language, will we add something like “while the employee is bound by the contract, “the State may make future changes it deems necessary”? Also, would this “weakening” principle also apply to other contracts (for example, bond payments) the State enters into?


  37. - Just Trying to Survive - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:47 pm:

    IMRF, which has not been allowed to ever skip one single payment is funded at over 80%—-just exactly like TRS would be if no one stole from it. IMRF retirees receive a 13th check each year. That shows you that there is no problem with a defined benefit plan. Not putting money owed into it causes a problem to a defined benefit program. Employees never skipped out on one penny.


  38. - Mason born - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:48 pm:

    It hasn’t been proposed because no one wants to be the first to give the bad news. No real solution will come out until every last least painful (for them) option is completely sunk and then only in the lame duck. Once the school boards paint the cost shift as a mandated Property Tax increase it’s going to take some heavy lifting.

    Whether intentionally or accidentley the politicians have placed themselves in quite a trap. There are no politically palatable options left.


  39. - Just Trying to Survive - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:54 pm:

    Ducky LaMoore at 3:35 is right on. Sometimes I marvel at the petulance of the editorial writers. I’ve wondered if they had a 6 year old write it while they slept.


  40. - cover - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 3:58 pm:

    = If Rauner wins — what’s to prevent him from terminating employment for everyone with a pension? If folks want their jobs back, they have to go through the state hiring process and agree to a 401K? =

    Not sure how Rauner could get a Dem-controlled GA to pass a bill to abolish the pension systems… and there’s a pesky AFSCME contract in place until 6/30/2015. If he plays hardball, would AFSCME walk and leave DCFS unstaffed on 7/1/2015? All it would take is one child abuse death for Rauner to lose the PR battle.


  41. - Eve - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:02 pm:

    I’m so glad you are raising this issue. We should have done the cost shift long before this. Yes, that is a constitutional way to reign in pension costs - at least in minimizing end-of-career bumps that inflated final average salary estimates. But the State picking up the TRS costs is just a really inequitable way to fund education anyway.

    General State Aid (and even more so, the Manar education funding reform proposal) targets State money where there’s low property wealth and high student need. The State’s pick up of pensions gives the most money to the wealthiest districts with the highest salaries. So the legislature could avoid the cost shift by making horrific cuts to everything including education, which would hurt the poorest school districts - but the cost shift would be the more responsible solution.


  42. - forwhatitsworth - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:03 pm:

    Does anyone really believe our state politicians want to give up their control over the state pension systems when they’ve been able use “pension money” for all sorts of other funding? This deception has afforded the politicians to offer state services at a discount to the public while at the same time keep the state income tax at a very moderate rate even with the recent temporary increase? This is a pretty good scam while it lasts. What most people don’t understand is that the “normal cost” of pension funding is very manageable, but … just like out-of-control credit card spending and interest, the debt has skyrocketed. Now it’s time to pay the piper and state pension members have become the target of the politicians and the high income earners that want even more. Madeleine Doubek advocates “changing the constitution to control too generous pension benefits.” Our politicians sure wanted the support of the constitution when Quinn withheld their wages! Should we change the constitution every time it suits the agenda of a certain special interest? What about changing the state constitution to create a modern and fair income tax? The top 1% total household income holders have grabbed their biggest share since 1928. In 1973 the top 1% share was 7.7% of all household income. In 2012 the share was 19%. The top 10% of total income holders have almost 50% of total household income, which leaves the other 50% for us 90%. Yet “reformers” want to squeeze the blood out of us turnips when we’ve done nothing to deserve this assault. You tell me what is the justice in this story.


  43. - Retired - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:04 pm:

    IMRF is funded by a tax levy. How are school districts going to pay for pensions when the money received from the State has been prorated? Most districts are at their maximum tax rates and there is no levy vehicle available for TRS pensions. What to do?


  44. - DuPage - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:05 pm:

    1. Adjust the “Ramp”.

    2. Put back the temporary tax and use it strictly to pay the pension systems. Put it in the law to authorize the extension, that if the money is diverted to anything other then pension funds, then the tax extension will automatically expire the following year. (That is to keep temptation away from the G.A. and governors. We have seen what they done in the past.)

    3. State to pay existing obligations to pension systems.

    4. Split the future employer match in TRS and SURS community colleges 50/50. Half by the state, the other half by the local districts.

    5. Problem solved. The local districts would be paying about 4-5% into the retirement systems. That is still a lower percentage then what every private employer pays into social security.


  45. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:06 pm:

    ===What to do?===

    Laws can be changed.


  46. - Archimedes - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:09 pm:

    Actually, the cost shift to schools, as proposed to slowly phase it in, could be planned fo.

    Now the bad news for the State. In 20 years, there is no cost to shift. There is no employer normal cost anymore, per COGFA, since the Tier 2 will be populated by enough employees to entirely offset the full cost of pensions without any money from the employer.

    So the cost shift helps, but the cost that is given to school districts goes down each year to nothing in 20 years.

    That’s the other side to this. Does the GA want to spend political capital on a declining value?

    There are numerous pieces available to get this done. The State has a debt to pay, and once they have exhausted any legal means to cut the debt, they will have to pay it. We will see how that choice is made - but political solutions have to match financial reality.


  47. - ZC - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:11 pm:

    I agree that the inclusion in the constitution of a sweeping Pension Clause was a really terrible idea, in retrospect. Guaranteed 3% compounding COLAs, when people live now to be 90? Nobody should have a constitutional -right- to that. Schnorf is right, at the end of the day, too much was promised.

    But the other chief failing of the IL Constitution was an absolute ruling out of a progressive tax. Income is increasingly concentrated today in the hands of a few; you can be a Calvinist and defend this, or be a Marxist and condemn it, but whatever you pick, if you believe that governments need to collect revenue in order to function, then governments have to go where the revenue actually is. Today that’s increasingly in the top tier percentiles.

    If the Tribune thinks we can get out of this mess -just- by cutting, and not by also calling for the creation of a progressive income tax structure by constitutional amendment, then it’s in deep denial.


  48. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:16 pm:

    “Reboot’s pros just seem more and more clueless”

    Doubek is an anti-tax hysteric. I tried reading her, but I have a difficult time getting past the exasperated doomsday histrionics. I don’t think that’s what we need right now.

    I think one of the first things we need to do is raise the income tax back up to 5%, or pass the millionaire surcharge (this idea should calm Ms. Doubek down). This is not likely, but the revenue we’re getting from the 5% is helping the state. We need a better revenue stream.

    If Rauner fired thousands of workers and rehired them as 401(k) workers, that’s massive chaos. I wouldn’t put something like that past him, though. He’s quiet about public unions and government workers now, but if he wins the General, he will no longer have an incentive to rein in his positions.


  49. - Mason born - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:18 pm:

    ZC

    As for the Constitutional Language on pensions It was pretty clear in the debates that the folks who wrote the language thought no Gov and GA would be so stupid as to not make the payments for the funds. They were apparently naive. It seems they should have said the GA must fund all pensions systems with real dollars every year.


  50. - Big Shot Attorney - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:26 pm:

    @Yellow Dog Democrat
    “Even Constitutional amendments cannot be ex post facto.”

    Would you be so kind as to cite the source of law for which you make this claim? Could you cite a case somewhere that supports this claim? Just because you make the claim that an amendment cannot be ex post facto, that doesn’t make it true. What is the legal support for your claim?

    Many laws are enacted with ex post facto effect. If a law is enacted which overrides an existing law, then the old law is gone. Zippo. No longer in effect. It doesn’t matter what “used to be the law”. The new law goes into effect. If an old law says the speed limit is 55mph, and a new law is enacted allowing you to drive 70mph, there is no violation if you are stopped going 69mph. Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine praevia lege poenali

    I will agree with you on one point, that is, why would the unions be willing to negotiate anything now that they “won” the argument. The answer to that question is the only reason they would negotiate anything would be to try and prevent a constitutional amendment that will surely bring havoc to their current victory. The problem with that, of course, is that any single person could choose to bring a lawsuit and challenge the law again, if an agreement was reached that possibly ran afoul of the Constitution. (with a capital “C”). So that could be all for naught if a single party challenged any “agreement” worked out by the unions (which seems unlikely in the first place), this would not stop somebody else from challenging the law. \

    But answer my question…please. What is it that causes you to cling to this unsupportable argue…that is…a constitutional amendment could not be made post facto.

    When you need a question on the law answered, don’t just spout something out. Back it up with something. Better yet, just ask me. More than likely I know the answer off the top of my head. The people on this site just amaze me.


  51. - Crafty Bob - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:36 pm:

    So let’s talk about attracting kids toward becoming teachers! Salaries will surely flatten/deflate if too much strain is placed on local taxing bodies for pensions. Move everyone to a 401k style plan? The demands for higher starting pay and quality career enhancements must be part of the offer to attract and retain professionals. We’re talking about quality schools and quality teachers so homeowners, given the current formula of quality schools=quality home value, can make profits when they sell!

    This is all about quality, correct? If the above issues cannot be addressed, then those who can’t truly will teach.

    Those who can wont step near the profession, sort of like what we’re already seeing.

    Keep those test scores up!


  52. - Norseman - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:37 pm:

    7-0 Germans.


  53. - Norseman - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:41 pm:

    Mr. BS Attorney, why don’t you cite the cases that prove your case. All the experts I trust take the opposite view of you.


  54. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:41 pm:

    – Just because you make the claim that an amendment cannot be ex post facto, that doesn’t make it true. What is the legal support for your claim?–

    Why don’t you review your Article I Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Big Shot?


  55. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:44 pm:

    Crafty Bob - this is not the 1990s where good teachers had great options elsewhere. In this economy (and especially with current job trends) being a teacher will still be an attractive profession even with lesser options. And if the teaching unions gave a flip about teacher quality, they’d 1) make the licensing exam more difficult than its current high school competency level and 2) not give UNLIMITED chances to pass it. There are all sorts of things we can do to make tough urban schools more attractive to teachers other than pensions - look at what Catholic school teachers make.


  56. - Anon - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:46 pm:

    Don’t do it Yellow Dog! Our recent troll, Mr. Big Shot, obviously hasn’t followed this blog very long, which helps to explain his tone. Of course, his question has been answered many, many times over the last several years of this interminable pension “crisis.” If he wants to contribute constructively, it’s time for the Big Shot to first do his homework.


  57. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:47 pm:

    What Big Shot meant to say is that the ban on ex post facto laws doesn’t mean laws can’t have retroactive effects as a general rule. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_post_facto_law#United_States


  58. - PolPal56 - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:48 pm:

    Primary and secondary schools have districts. Community Colleges have districts. Property taxes are paid within those districts that go toward supporting each. Universities don’t have districts and don’t currently receive property taxes (to the best of my knowledge and research). If there is no tax base, the U’s will simply what? Get more money from the State? Raise tuition? Create taxing districts and add further to property taxes?


  59. - Illannoyed - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:48 pm:

    @BigShotAttorney: I think YellowDogDem was referring to the post-facto modification of the anticipated/contracted future pensions of employees already in the system. If so, he’s in good company, considering that the Sun-Times (”and may still not protect the state legally if it reduces benefits already promised”), Rich (”changing the Constitution probably won’t work for existing retirees and workers”), and several others involved in yesterday’s discussions on this site (e.g., RNUG) have articulated a similar understanding.

    So you think (and I’m asking sincerely, since an attorney’s view would be welcome) that a new constitutional amendment could revise the pensions of employees not-yet-retired (whose anticipated pensions are guaranteed, if the ISC rules that way, by the current Constitution)?


  60. - Mason born - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:48 pm:

    –Better yet, just ask me. More than likely I know the answer off the top of my head. The people on this site just amaze me.–

    It’s a big internet.

    As for you having the answer at the top of your head. In my layman experience i can ask 3 different Big Shot Attorneys the same question and get three different answers. Besides the better analogy of your post would be the state reducing the speed limit to 65 from 70 and then trying to give me a ticket for driving 70 before the change.


  61. - abc123 - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:49 pm:

    BS Attorney is right. A broadly written amendment takes care of all state law issues, leaving only Federal issues. If you want to make a Federal, which would probably get it in front of real judges, the unions will lose.


  62. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:50 pm:

    And Mr. Big Shot, consult your law dictionary, as well, as to the meaning of ex post facto.

    Changing the speed limit is certainly not an example of an ex post facto law.

    Geez, did that law degree come with a stick of gum at least?


  63. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:51 pm:

    lcd, ex post facto and retroactive are different things. If the state Constitution says no diminishment, you can’t diminish ex post facto with an amendment because you’d be changing the terms of a contract after the fact. You can, however, pass a tax hike retroactive several months.


  64. - facts are stubborn things - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:57 pm:

    Yes, the darn constitution lets amend it….we have to have system where we can rob pension dollars to pay for other programs and then claim a crisis and not pay the promised pensions. You expect us to be able to run a state without being able to do that….come on.


  65. - Angry Chicagoan - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 4:58 pm:

    The school pension funding situation is an extraordinary example of a free rider problem. It comes up in conversation in my own work, and when I mention to people I’m interviewing in other Midwestern states how it works in Illinois, they’re frankly kind of shocked . . . and the reverse happens when I tell folks in Illinois how it’s done elsewhere. Sort of a scales-falling-away moment.

    Simply reallocate current levels of state funding for schools to general education, away from pensions. If the deal needs sweetening a little, indicate any increase in the state income tax will go to additional gen-ed funding, and not to pensions. That will get school districts thinking really quickly.


  66. - Bobbysox - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:05 pm:

    Raise taxes. They could have done a very small increase decades ago — maybe 1970 when the current Constitution passed — and the pensions would be fully funded IF they dedicated the money to pensions. Instead they depressed the amount of income each and every year by raiding money that should have gone to the pensions. Now the increase will be substantial. But that is because they have been riding on pension funds for free for 44 years, or more.


  67. - facts are stubborn things - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:06 pm:

    The unions might be willing at some point to compromise on pensions in exchange for other important benefits/securities/contract language etc. for current membership, but there would no reason that those retired should or would be any part of it. If you are retired you have crossed the finish line and made - for the most part - an irrevocable decision based on the conditions you retired under. It is too bad it takes a Constitutional amendment and an ISC to make sure the state keeps the promises - to a class of people - who have met their end of the bargain and now expect, and are counting on the state to meet theirs.


  68. - Interested - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:06 pm:

    - Anon - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:00 pm:
    ~~There’s no diminishment because you can’t diminishment something you don’t have in the first place. It’s the ultimate pension fix~~

    Re-read this week’s ISC ruling. Your idea is a non-starter. Current employees are already members of the pension systems…you can’t undo that says the Constitution (and affirmed as recently as this week by the ISC).


  69. - Archimedes - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:07 pm:

    Artcle 1, Section 16 of the Illinois constitution prohibits any ex pot facto law


  70. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:12 pm:

    Rich - that was the point I was inartfully trying to make - I was saying I thought Mr. BS had conflated various allowable retroactive effects to misunderstand the US Constitution’s ex post facto clause, and that I thought the pensions would fall under the latter. (I did think that a couple of those criminal examples in the wikipedia article, which turn on whether something is “punitive,” were arguable.


  71. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:18 pm:

    R. Eden Martin and Eric Madiar are Big Shot attorneys (Martin probably much more so), but only one of them was right, and it wasn’t the Biggest Shot. Maybe Rich should have a contest to see which of us real and pretend attorneys could write the “best diminishing” constitutional amendment.


  72. - Left Leaner - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:39 pm:

    Raise taxes. Only practical/plausible way out of this.

    Forget constitutional amendments. Not.Going.To.Happen.

    Although one that forces the GA to make full pension payments each year might fly.

    The true legacy of Michael Madigan: This pension crisis.


  73. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:44 pm:

    ==I don’t know why they think that==

    Too many lunch hour cocktails before writing these editorials.


  74. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:51 pm:

    Mr. Big, you’re moving the goal posts from your previous statements. Give them a read and you’ll see.

    Keep banging the table. Some lawyers work that way.


  75. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:52 pm:

    @Illannoyed

    The answer is “yes”


  76. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:55 pm:

    It is obvious from reading the Tribune “editorial” (a term loosely applied) that it can be summed up into one sentence: “What Sam Zell did to us we DEMAND be done to Illinois public employees!”


  77. - The Dark Horse - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 5:58 pm:

    I am wondering how BSAttorney passed the bar. Try reading Article I, section 10, clause 1 in its entirety. It states:

    No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

    NO LAW, ex post facto or otherwise, impairing a contractual obligation.


  78. - The Dark Horse - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 6:01 pm:

    That’s Article I, section 10, clause 1 of the US Constitution, BTW.


  79. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 6:03 pm:

    “BS Attorney…”

    Enough said :)


  80. - exISU - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 6:09 pm:

    A tax increase has been discussed on this site as a possible solution, including extending the income tax to pensions. Wouldn’t extending the income tax to a state retiree’s pension be an obvious diminishment of the pension benefit?


  81. - Crafty Bob - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 6:12 pm:

    LCD

    You give way too much credit to the bogeyman teacher unions-how about starting with telling colleges to stop accepting mediocre candidates and to create a ceiling for candidates accepted? Unions have no role in any of those areas, especially the state created licensing systems,and if they did, higher teacher quality would be reflected in salaries which many would gladly accept. Again, easy to blame the big bad teacher unions for what is challenging to legislate fairly.

    Catholic school pay? Are you serious? Jesus, the first labor leader on record, would be appalled, and would be looking to get out of St. ____ and into New Trier as fast as possible. Ha!


  82. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 6:45 pm:

    exISU - a tax on all retirement income, as long as it was aimed at the general population and not just state retirees, would be OK, because the diminishment would not be directed specifically at the protected class. Otherwise, where would you draw the line? If state license plate fees go up $3, it is a diminishment to the retiree also, but also to everyone regardless of state retirement status.


  83. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 6:52 pm:

    @Dark Horse

    States pass laws, citizens adopt Constitutions. Laws are different than the Constitution. Spend a few minutes on the legal fundamentals. You didn’t see the Illinois Supreme Court debating the merits of whether the law would violate the US Constitution.


  84. - Getty - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 6:53 pm:

    Maybe they stopped talking about it because you called it The Big Lie.


  85. - exISU - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 6:53 pm:

    -Six Degrees

    Thank you. I figured that there was a simple answer.


  86. - Mason born - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 7:51 pm:

    The problem I see with a tax increase is ensuring the funds actually go into pensions. I fear any new source of revenue may be co-opted once the public sees the next squirrel. The 100 billion dollar question is how do you force the GA and Gov. to actually keep funding the system once the heat is off?


  87. - Mason born - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 7:55 pm:

    Anonymous 6:52 did u miss the federal judges throwing out gay marriage amendments? If the change violates the U.S. Constitution you might as well right it on charmin.


  88. - Jibba - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 8:20 pm:

    Hi Rich. There are a few things that can be done to educe pension obligations that WOULD be constitutional, such as reducing state headcount, reducing pay (unilaterally or via contract negotiations), or taxing pensions. As a state employee, I would prefer not to see any of these, but at least they would be legal.

    The pols took an unconstitutional way because it was easier, cost less political capital, and saved a LOT more money than my ideas above. Figures, because they just want to get back to the easy part: spending money on pork to get themselves reelected. No one wants to go through the long period of time of fiscal austerity needed to actually pay off the debt.


  89. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 9:28 pm:

    Guys,

    Thanks for filling today while I was in St Louis taking the grand kids to the Transportation Museum and the Zoo. A number of you said exactly what I would have said about contracts not being able to be involuntarily modified, etc.


  90. - Assess - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 9:48 pm:

    Any shift of pension costs to school districts would not include the current unfunded liability, just annual cost going forward.

    ,As far as financial responsibility requiring local gov’t to negotiate pension benefits, that is not how IMRF works, or police and fire pensions. The state sets the rules — the locals pay the bills.


  91. - Morty - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 9:55 pm:

    “You give way too much credit to the bogeyman teacher unions-how about starting with telling colleges to stop accepting mediocre candidates and to create a ceiling for candidates accepted? Unions have no role in any of those areas, especially the state created licensing systems”

    Thank you for living in the real world. Seriously folks, the NEA and the AFT couldn’t make SB-7 fail legislatively, yet they have control over the liscensing examinations? There is a woeful lack of understanding of how powerful the teacher’s unions are…


  92. - Saint. Crispin - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 9:56 pm:

    It’s worth remembering that the constitution was amended in 1970 because the state hadn’t been making full payments into the system prior to then. I can understand why the pension systems were nervous, even then. I remember reading an article from a young Paul Simon predicting doom if the state didn’t start making its payments. Except for the numbers being laughably small compared to today, it could have been written today. It’s unfortunate the amendment guaranteed benefits but did not require timely payments from the state to fund them. Major error. As I understand it, Illinois has paid in enough to meets its funding obligations, It just hasn’t paid it soon enough. So all we are really paying for in the $100 billion, is the lost investment income the systems would have made on their own. It’s a disgrace.

    If I had to bet, I’d say we see a transfer of the employer side of the pension costs transferred to the school districts (colleges too?) on a phase-in basis, if for no other reason, to get the nut down for the state. What I wonder is if the state will allow the school districts to increase taxes to cover it. I’m not sure the state will allow districts to levy for it. Then again, a lot of districts are already in financial trouble. Transferring the pension costs would be a huge burden to them.

    If they do transfer the pension cost, you can be sure that current teachers will end up losing because of it. School boards will be in for some ugly meetings and the temptation to limit raises or freeze salaries will be overwhelming, irrespective of whether they districts can levy or not.

    It’s too bad that the likelihood of the pension system members helping out is zero, once the SC rules. I don’t know about the other systems, but the TRS would be in much better shape without the end of career bumps and the automatic 3% increases.

    I worry about the $100 billion liability that assumes investment returns that may well not materialize. If they don’t, the $100 B will get a lot larger. What then?


  93. - Morty - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 9:58 pm:

    As for the Trib, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the staff from the Onion is writing their editorials- we’re all just missing the subtle satire of it all. Either that or they need some Prozac….


  94. - West Side the Best Side - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 10:09 pm:

    Take a complete and total disregard on anything BS Attorney has to say. His example of ex post facto is just bass-akwards. If the speed limit is changed from 70 to 55 and you get a ticket after it takes effect for driving 69 mph the day before it changed, that is ex post facto. As far as spouting Latin off the top of my head - Arma virumque cano….


  95. - Judgment Day (on the road) - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 10:56 pm:

    “t wasn’t proposed by a first-year back-bencher during the recent pension negotiations. It still didn’t get done, ergo it must have been a tougher sell than what did happen. Will it re-surface. It didn’t look like there were any R votes for it at the time (course, my party hasn’t voted for much of anything lately).”
    ——————-

    It’s likely to be an even tougher tougher ’sell’ because of GASB Statements 67, and now especially GASB 68 (effective 06.15.2014).

    It’s not likely we are going to be able to amortize the unfunded retirement backlog over much more than a 25 year period, if that long. Complying with GASB 68 looks like 20 to 25 years terms max. (that’s 4-5% percent per year funding to amortize the unfunded obligations).

    That’s going to be some really serious cash. 2% was at least workable for some, but at 4-5% - don’t think so.. Not without the State picking up part of that tab, which puts us right back into the hole.

    If you are interested, here’s the link to


  96. - Judgment Day (on the road) - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 10:56 pm:

    Link is: http://www.gasb.org/jsp/GASB/Pronouncement_C/GASBSummaryPage&cid=1176160219492


  97. - Arizona Bob - Tuesday, Jul 8, 14 @ 11:05 pm:

    There’s a huge difference between what SHOULD be done and what WILL be done in Illinois.

    What SHOULD be done (in no particular order) is:

    1)Remove the “impair nor diminish” clause in the constitution. I know it won’t solve the immediate problem, but it WILL show the bond community that there is a serious move among both the government and the people to solve this problem in the long term, and every year another 3-5% of public employees will not be added to the problem and inflexibility in ways to address the problems. It’s not going to happen in Illinois, but it would be an important step in solving the problem that I believe will not be solved…disaster will hit the state and then Illinois will be in the same state of hopelessness as Detroit.

    2)Pension costs for new education pension vesting accruals and new employees MUST be shifted to schools. Having one organization grow salaries and benefits to unsustainable levels and unfair “end of career” spikes while the other foots the bill is completely dysfunctional and was a big part of this disaster. The state is, however, stuck with current retiree obligations and already vested pension benefits. The system should be set by a “progressive” school district contribution, not based upon the current formula but by the salary and benefit levels they pay. All pension obligations accrued for employees paid more than state average salary should be immediately picked up by the district, as well as matching pension contributions for districts paying more than 50% of employee health care costs, before an eventual shift to full employer pension funding. While we’re at it, all contracts that provide a retirement ANNUITY in ADDITION to generous state pensions should have full state and employer contributions paid by the district. This obscenely unfair excess in many administrator contracts should be penalized for the excess that it is. This shift MAY happen, because MJM wants the cost shift. Some small state statutory increase in the tax rate to defray some cost is almost certain under this scenario.

    3) Public employee strikes must be prohibited in Illinois. It’s not going to happen, but it’s necessary if this fiscal problem is to be addressed before disaster strikes and to control cost increases. There’s going to be some employee pain to compensate for the unnecessary excesses in salary and benefit growth of the past, and the only way to avoid chaos is to give government control of government finances, which is not the case now because of the strike threat.

    4) While the protection of current retiree benefit is sacrosanct, the growth of pension obligations needs to be controlled. The only way I see this happening is to outsource far more work currently done by public employees. Once out of the system, the public staff may do the same work for a private company contracted to perform the work, including education. Once again, the strike prohibition is the only way this can happen. This is already happening to a substantial extent in Illinois, but unfortunately it needs to be increased to address this crisis. It’s not fair, but neither is driving the state to ruin due to pandering, bought and paid for pols who gave unfairly large pension benefit packages they, and the unions, knew the state couldn’t sustain.

    5)Unless all this is done, raising taxes is just prolonging the agony. It doesn’t matter if the state taxes all retirement income over $30,000 per year at 5%, the income tax is made permanent, or a progressive tax amendment to the constitution is passed by the GA and guv. No matter who they are in Illinois, the GA will spend most of it to pay off their crony capitalist friends, continue to increase employee costs unsustainably, especially in education, and keep those “pork” grants and projects and featherbedded patronage hotbeds in Illinois government. The core in the Springfield “apple” is rotten, and shining up the outside won’t prevent it from rotting throughout, until all that’s left is a stinking mess.

    Prediction? The cost sharing and some tax increases will happen, but it won’t stop the bleeding or solve the problems with the other issues mentioned here left in tact.

    I don’t see a solution happening. I think MJM and the Springfield establishment will let this whole house of cards collapse and leave with their fat “retirement” jobs from years of corruption and their gold plated state pensions (some multiple) while Rome burns.

    I’ve seen this disaster coming for quite some time. I thought there was hope for a sane government to do what’s right rather than corrupt, but I see that as impossible with the current Illinois electorate, and I see it only getting worse electorally.

    I left Illinois with some sadness, but I did all I could to solve these problems and I just couldn’t make a dent. You remaining (except those with public jobs and pensions and the pols)have my sympathy. See you in Arizona, Florida, Indiana and Texas!


  98. - DuPage - Wednesday, Jul 9, 14 @ 12:08 am:

    @Judgment Day10:56pm =Complying with GASB 68 looks like 20 to 25 years terms max. (that’s 4-5% percent per year funding to amortize the unfunded obligations).=

    Does this accounting standard actually force the state to fund the pension system? What happens if they don’t fund it in 20-25 years? In other words, is it mandatory or just a recommendation?


  99. - Harry - Wednesday, Jul 9, 14 @ 12:09 am:

    Making the school districts pay for teachers–gee, that was the “cost shift” that the Dems and GOP argued about for the what seemed like most of the 2013 Spring Session.

    Will the Kanerva decision convince anyone to change their position on that? Doubtful…


  100. - Harry - Wednesday, Jul 9, 14 @ 12:13 am:

    Con amendment is a huge shot in the dark.

    California and some other states have created pension protection not a whole lot different than Illinois, based only on case law. Get rid of the Pension Clause and you’re looking at creating a whole body of case law to define these rights, and good luck with that… both getting the result you want, and getting it in time to matter.

    Plus, you would be unilaterally diminishing contract rights under the US Constitution–good luck with that, too.


  101. - Judgment Day (on the road) - Wednesday, Jul 9, 14 @ 1:02 am:

    “Does this accounting standard actually force the state to fund the pension system? What happens if they don’t fund it in 20-25 years? In other words, is it mandatory or just a recommendation?”
    ——————

    The whole concept behind GASB was to standardize financial information for local and state tax districts, so the feds would stay out of it. Because NOBODY (at that time) wanted the feds involved.

    So, since it’s not a “Law”, but it is a “Statement”. But it’s pretty much backed by the marketplace, and truthfully, the marketplace can be a much more brutal and unforgiving enforcer of such rules than the federal government.

    Over time, GASB has become the so-called ‘gold standard’ for governmental financial accounting.

    The credit/bond rating agencies rely on it, as do most of the financial houses - which, from my POV, isn’t saying much, given how those folks IMO created the 2007-2008 financial meltdown that we still haven’t recovered from. But the interesting part is the federal government also has come to rely heavily on GASB.

    But what it would mean is reality is that it is just one more set of financial accounting strikes against us, and we didn’t have very many left in the first place.

    In worst case, using bonded indebtedness in Illinois as a financing tool would become very difficult and expensive. I wouldn’t say “never”, because when someplace like Argentina can still issue bonds, well it’s likely that ANYBODY could still issue bonds. Terms might be kind of brutal, though.

    Maybe the State of Illinois could enter into an austerity program with the IMF (I kid, I kid…). Just a thought….


  102. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Jul 9, 14 @ 7:26 am:

    Judgement Day, as Wordslinger has pointed out, and rightfully so, the reality is that the State of Illinois has never missed a debt payment, nor has it missed a pension payment. That’s the bottom line that will cause investors to continue to buy Illinois bonds regardless of the dubious ratings of bond ratings agencies who have zero credibility. GASB is not elected, and these newly promulgated standards forcing states that exist in perpetuity and cannot declare bankruptcy into the same financial horizon used to measure businesses, which regularly abuse our bankruptcy laws, makes no sense, and we and savvy investors should ignore the “logic” that came up with that time frame.

    Rich has also pointed out that our debt to GSP level is much lower than Toronto, the example he used, but we’re rated much lower, and our governor has never, to the best of my knowledge, smoked crack, unlike the Toronto mayor. Savvy investors look at the debt to GSP ratio, because that’s something that puts those big scary debt numbers in perspective. They realize that the state always has the power to tax to pay for the expenditures that the representatives of the people have prioritized as state programs.

    You’ve mentioned GASB before, but while the reputation of the institution is used as a tool by many, the logic supporting the time frame used by 67 and 68 is dubious and should be accorded minimal weight.


  103. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Jul 9, 14 @ 8:09 am:

    –LCD

    You give way too much credit to the bogeyman teacher unions-how about starting with telling colleges to stop accepting mediocre candidates and to create a ceiling for candidates accepted? Unions have no role in any of those areas, especially the state created licensing systems,and if they did, higher teacher quality would be reflected in salaries which many would gladly accept. Again, easy to blame the big bad teacher unions for what is challenging to legislate fairly. –

    Simply not true - the unions were the ones who pushed, successfully, for the change in the licensing exam (they claimed the previous five (five!) chances was unfair and hurting diversity). While many states in the 90’s were making it easier for people to make career changes to become teachers, unions thwarted similar efforts here. For example, I have an engineering degree from a top-tier university but had to take a community college earth science class before I could teach in elementary schools. And how is it the teacher colleges’ fault for what standards the state sets for teachers? To argue “the state can have a low bar, but the teacher colleges really should have the responsibility for making sure all their candidates are well above that bar” makes no sense.

    –Catholic school pay? Are you serious? Jesus, the first labor leader on record, would be appalled, and would be looking to get out of St. ____ and into New Trier as fast as possible. Ha!”

    Your post was about attracting teachers to the profession, remember? You argued that lowering their retirement benefits would drive good candidates away. My argument is that there are far more powerful magnets for good teachers than golden retirement plans. The fact that legions of good teachers work at far lower salaries than the public schools is a testament to that. And I’m sure you’ve talked to enough of them to know the reasons why they make that choice.

    And as for Jesus leaving a school for a better salary - forgive my ecumenical response but oy vey, Jesus would be the LAST person to put personal wealth over other concerns. That’s why he’s Jesus!


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        * Why is Gov. Pat Quinn living off minimum wage f.....
        * Unions Still Big Political Players..
        * Politicians gear up for election season..
        * OP-ED: What FDR Actually Said And What Bruce Ra.....
        * GOP sees gains in Illinois voters tuning out..
        * Governor Quinn takes on minimum wage challenge..


        * Cubs honor Jackie Robinson West little leaguers
        * Man found dead in central Illinois was hit by car
        * US eating habits improve a bit _ except among poor
        * Study: Action-packed TV might make you snack more
        * Patients to start applying for medical marijuana
        * US Rep. Duckworth announces she's pregnant
        * Bloomington shuttle bus driver charged with DUI
        * Chicago police: Murders down, shootings up
        * Little League team honored with parade in Vegas
        * Rauner vow revives governor's mansion question

        * Does the governor need to live in the Executive Mansion?
        * Statehouse Insider: Hands off investments
        * State of unions: AFSCME wins some, loses some on outsourcing
        * State of unions: Domination of Illinois' workforce becomes campaign issue
        * State of unions: Lawmakers approved keeping some workers out of unions
        * State of Illinois posts applications for medical marijuana businesses
        * DNR issues long-awaited ‘fracking’ rules
        * Quinn grants 38 clemency requests
        * IDNR issues long-awaited ‘fracking’ rules
        * Court rules state retirees can stop paying health insurance premiums

        * If only it were this easy to lift share prices
        * 'Chicagoland' star returns to school
        * Amid re-election fight, Quinn pushes through a tax on business
        * Chicago's worst IPO in 2014: Ryerson
        * Why ComEd is worried about your smartphone


        * Elmhurst couple in murder-suicide were doting parents: neighbors
        * When Europe pays  kidnappers, Americans die
        * CPS can cheer, but challenges remain
        * ‘Long way to go’ but Roseland Hospital showing signs of stability
        * Rogers Park woman killed in crash on Tri-State Tollway near Schiller Park
        * Prosecutors: Man in CTA stabbing permanently disfigured
        * CTA offering free rides for students on first day of school
        * Alvarez: Crime lab backlog held up DNA evidence on Evans’ gun
        * More rain, storms possible for rest of Labor Day
        * Pullman Park needs Congress’ support


        * Survivors of Elmhurst family laud parents 'unwavering' commitment
        * 1 dead, 13 hurt in shootings across city
        * I-90/94 reopened after semi rollover leads to inbound closure
        * 1 in custody after shooting in Oak Forest forest preserve
        * Body of Chicago Heights boy, 14, pulled from Kankakee River
        * Rainstorms part of Labor Day forecast
        * Tammy Duckworth pregnant, expecting girl in December
        * Cops: Man batters woman and child, throws toddler from vehicle
        * Tougher rules ahead on domestic abuse
        * New sculpture in Niles to be dedicated to St. John Paul II


        * Newborn Found Alive In Jacksonville Trash Bin
        * DNR Releases Fracking Rules
        * Listen to State Week - August 29, 2014
        * 'Belleville' The Movie Is NOT A Documentary
        * Journalist and doctor encourage honest conversations about death
        * Undocumented Immigrants Call For Presidential Orders
        * State Retirees To Stop Paying Health Premiums
        * How America's most plentiful bird disappeared
        * Pregnant Workers To Be Protected Under New Law
        * Updates From The Prairie Capital Convention Center


        * Does the governor need to live in the Executive Mansion?
        * Our Opinion: Driving into floodwater a deadly practice
        * Angie Muhs: A debate in Springfield would send the right message from candidates
        * Charles Krauthammer: Lower corporate tax rates. Now.
        * Bernard Schoenburg: Dillman, Watson looking at possible runs for alderman
        * Statehouse Insider: Hands off investments
        * Statehouse Insider: Hands off investments
        * State of unions: AFSCME wins some, loses some on outsourcing
        * State of unions: Domination of Illinois' workforce becomes campaign issue
        * State of unions: Lawmakers approved keeping some workers out of unions


        * Wet weather on the way
        * Man found dead in central Illinois was hit by car
        * Labor Day 2014
        * AFGC able to donate to organizations
        * For Kids’ Sake 4th Annual 5K Run/Walk-a-Thon to be held Sept. 26
        * Run with Carl leaves 20-year legacy
        * Durbin, Bustos hit Republicans on jobs policies
        * Salukis crack FCS top 25 at No. 25
        * Williamson County HCE members attend workshop
        * Rain voted out of forecast for a fair-weather parade


        * Cicero police arrest bank robbery suspect
        * Images: Labor Day in the suburbs
        * AP Top Ten: How they fared in Week 1
        * Alibaba IPO comes with unusual structure
        * Republican family picnic Sept. 14 in Busse Woods

        * Rep. Luis Gutiérrez: Chicago Murder Outbre...
        * As 145 Arrested in White House Protest, Re...
        * Luis Gutierrez and the Amnesty Stack - Rus...
        * Rep. Gutierrez on how Obama may act on ill...
        * Gutiérrez: Obama Amnesty Forced By 'Anti-i...
        * Rep. Gutierrez: Obama Can Use Executive Ac...
        * Gutiérrez: Obama's legacy on the line with...
        * Emanuel, Gutierrez: Chicago Will Lead upon...
        * Rahm, Gutierrez want Chicago to be model f...
        * Gutiérrez: Dems Weren't True to Their Valu...

        * Bright Side: Peoria Labor Day parade sees ......
        * Quinn, Rauner ad war at full throttle...
        * Quinn, Rauner ad war at full throttle...
        * At national election turning point, all is......
        * At national election turning point, all is......

        * Rubio, Colleagues Call For Latin American ......
        * Putin Hopeful Russia Won’t Lose Right to H......

        * Report: Minimum Wage Increase Would Help 1 In 5 Illinois Children
        * Southwest Side Chicagoans Question TIF Use In 23rd Ward (UPDATED)
        * Harris v. Quinn: Another Nail In The Coffin Or Shot In The Arm For Labor?
        * OP-ED: What FDR Actually Said And What Bruce Rauner Doesn't Get This Labor Day
        * Election 2014
        * Guest Post: Harris v. Quinn: Another Nail In The Coffin Or Shot In The Arm For Labor?
        * Congresswoman Schakowsky Participates In 'Come Care With Me Day'
        * Why New York City Opposed Abe Lincoln
        * New London school board takes back its offer to “Dr.” Terrence Carter.
        * Greg Hinz. Both Quinn and Rauner bob and weave on pension fix.


        * Governor Quinn Invests $102 Million in High-Speed Rail Upgrades on Chicago-St. Louis Line - Funding Will Improve Capacity, Safety on Joliet-Dwight Segment
        * Quinn Refuses to Answer New IDOT Questions
        * IDNR Delivers Revised Rules to Implement Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act - Rules strengthened to ensure public participation, improve transparency, toughen penalties and protect the environment
        * Governor Quinn Proclaims September as “Recovery Month” in Illinois - Encourages people to speak up about mental illness and substance abuse
        * Governor Quinn Dedicates Jane Byrne Interchange - Governor Renames Circle Interchange in Honor of Chicago’s First and Only Female Mayor to Date




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