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AFSCME: Cullerton plan “looks like extortion”

Friday, Jul 25, 2014

* AFSCME has responded to Senate President John Cullerton’s new pension reform idea, which is outlined here. From Council 31…

The latest pension-cutting concept outlined by Senate President John Cullerton looks like extortion—both unconstitutional and blatantly unfair to teachers, police, nurses, caregivers and other public employees.

For years, our union and the We Are One Illinois coalition of which we are a part have stood virtually alone in urging fair and constitutional solutions to the underfunding of Illinois pensions. We demonstrated our commitment last year by working constructively with Senator Cullerton to develop a compromise pension measure.

We also strongly opposed pension-cutting schemes that are clearly unconstitutional, but politicians charged ahead, triggering costly litigation. We will continue to defend the integrity of the Illinois Constitution.

Recently, a near-unanimous bipartisan majority of the state Supreme Court sent a strong signal that the retirement benefits of public employees are inviolable. To suggest that politicians could prevent workers from bargaining for fair wages only if they surrender a protected right is the same kind of thinking that has delayed real solutions to the pension funding problem. It’s long past time for gimmicks.

Public employees earn their modest pensions by teaching kids, caring for the most vulnerable and keeping us safe. They have always paid their share. That’s why it’s so outrageous that the politicians who caused the pension debt—and their corporate allies whose tax loopholes divert billions from the public good—are still seeking ways to force public servants alone to pay the cost.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


78 Comments
  1. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 11:57 am:

    If you mention extortion again, I’ll have your legs broken.


  2. - Norseman - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 11:58 am:

    Brilliant 47!


  3. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:03 pm:

    - 47th Ward -,

    Great minds, first thing I thought, well played.

    To the Post,

    I guess this isn’t going over very well…

    The impending ruling by the ISC is not going to make the Unions buckle for Cullerton, Quinn, Rauner…

    This is not going to be easy, but if it was, it would already be done.


  4. - anon. - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:05 pm:

    The IL constitution protects pension BENEFITS but says nothing about pension contributions. The GA can increase employee contributions as much as they want.


  5. - Jack - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:05 pm:

    Well, I think he is on to something there. Pay raises are not guaranteed by constitution. The near retired and retired would be protected. Younger workers can make their choice. Let’s face it corporations and wealthy elite are not going to be part of the process.


  6. - A Message from the Koch Brothers - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    What do you think about our belief in privatizing must of the functions of government now?


  7. - Keyser Soze - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:08 pm:

    Life is full of choices.


  8. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:08 pm:

    We will see more “suggestions” like this as our leaders grow more desperate to find a “solution”.

    We are reaching the end of a long chain reaction, one sped up for many years instead of working to stop it. Now, it is becoming almost impossible to avoid the consequences of those actions.

    In reality, the best solution is no longer an option without a time machine: do not short the state’s pension fund payment unless you can afford to pay it back.

    People have only been sounding the alarm about this for what? 40 years, since the Constitutional Convention? Longer?


  9. - angelo mysterioso - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    @47…perhaps we could arrange a small honorarium


  10. - Ahoy! - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    –are still seeking ways to force public servants alone to pay the cost.–

    I think it’s fair to say that taxpayers also pay a great cost, but AFSME never seems to acknowledge our contribution.


  11. - Jack - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    There you go increased contributions and choice of pay raises or cola. No constitution violation.


  12. - A guy... - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:10 pm:

    ===We will continue to defend the integrity of the Illinois Constitution.====

    Um, yeah, not everyone agrees with the basis of this argument.


  13. - Solved - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:14 pm:

    There are members of the pension systems who are not union members. I think they would pursue constitutionally. Not up to unions to agree or not to agree. Cullerton does not know this?


  14. - Cassandra - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:15 pm:

    AFSCME is right. And judging by recent events, this cut-the-pension initiative is so over. Our Democratic political masters (Illinois is a one-party state, remember) need to get off the pension-cutting shtick and start doing what they are supposed to do for their hefty compensation-move on, find some alternative solutions and get them done.


  15. - OneMan - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    == find some alternative solutions and get them done. ==

    Taking what would be applied as a pay increase as an increase in the contribution would be a solution in part…


  16. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    ===Um, yeah, not everyone agrees with the basis of this argument.===

    You’re right.

    Six Supreme Court Justices agreed, One didn’t. So there’s one…


  17. - Norseman - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    Well said Willy.


  18. - titan - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:30 pm:

    +++ - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    ===Um, yeah, not everyone agrees with the basis of this argument.===

    Six Supreme Court Justices agreed, One didn’t. So there’s one… +++

    Actually Willy, it appeared that even Justice Burke agreed with the argument as to those things contained in the Pension Code itself.


  19. - Ghost - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:31 pm:

    the sad/depressing thing is the Unions had agreed to a decent deal with cullerton. Nobody wanted to consider it or put it in play. Now the unions have no real incetive to enter into such an agreement again. The State quiet frankly made a very unwise decision to ignore the cullerton deal, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.


  20. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:32 pm:

    ===Actually Willy, it appeared that even Justice Burke agreed with the argument as to those things contained in the Pension Code itself.===

    Shhh. “Don’t let the facts get in the way” of the single dissenting vote to make - A Guy.. -’s argument valid.


  21. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:35 pm:

    ===Taking what would be applied as a pay increase as an increase in the contribution would be a solution in part…===

    And threatening to do so in perpetuity is probably enough to bring everyone back to the table to come up with as fair a solution as possible. Employees will almost certainly need to contribute more to the pensions, but so will taxpayers. There is a constitutional way through this mess and I hope Cullerton’s proposal is enough to get the ball rolling.


  22. - nadia - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    Public sector or private sector really makes no difference many employees are facing pension freezes, DB pension conversions to cash balances, terminations of retiree medical, changes to high deductible/high out of pocket healthcare plans, small pay increases, and wage freezes. As ole Walter said ” and that’s the way it is”. It sucks for sure. Most private employers understand and consider the consequences of what they provide their employees. For many years now this employer, Illinois with both Dems and Repubs at the helm, has not. Now it is what it is. Looks like it will take a combination of legislative ingenuity and hard ball, concessionary bargaining to resolve the situation. IMO retired employees of the State should be left out of what it’s going take to fix this, hate to think our State is akin to corporations (I keep forgetting they are people too!) that cut off benefits to workers who had a promise; if they worked to a certain point they would get this and that, to cut it after the fact is immoral.


  23. - illinifan - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:41 pm:

    we should’a made the pension payments when we could’a….so we would’a not been in this mess.

    As we all know when bad decisions are made with money the only way out of a financial mess is cut spending, raise revenue and commit to a payment plan. The ramp was the payment plan, but our legislators never did the first 2. Instead of Cullerton looking for gimmicks, it is time for the lot of the them to take the first 2 steps and cut spending and increase revenue.

    Stop wasting time looking for the next gimmick to be taken to court and show some leadership.


  24. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:41 pm:

    I posted this in the other thread in answer to a question by - angelo mysterioso - but it is also applicable here.

    To oversimplify things…

    You can contract for almost any legal purpose, including giving up a lot of your contractual rights under federal and state law, if it is properly offered and accepted. Generally you do so voluntarily in exchange for something that you believe is of more value to you.

    The real question is why would you voluntarily give up constitutionally protected benefits? What would be valuable enough to persuade you to do so?

    Assuming the courts continue to rule as expected in favor of the retirees / Tier 1 employees, this is the problem the State and General Assembly has. Health insurance is off the table. 3% AAI is off the table. Changing the current retirement formula in a detrimental way is off the table.

    About the only thing left on the table is figuring a way to minimize future salary increases for current Tier 1 employees so as to minimize their final average compensation used in the pension calculation. You can try to hold down the raises but that may not succeed.

    One item that should be looked at is the timing and amount of the automatic step increases earned by SERS union employees in addition to a COLA. From a historical perspective, pre-union the step increases were designed to reward employees who were becoming more skilled at their job; once x time had elapsed you automatically got the raise. At the time the State didn’t have a formal COLA process so the steps kind of made up for that. But today with an annual COLA process (union negotiated), a lot of state employees end up with 2 raises a year, one COLA and one step.

    Another place the State could get a bit of salary reduction is an idea that was tried before but then reneged on by the State (which some people, myself included, still resent to this day the State’s reneging on). At one time, instead of giving state employees a raise, the State agreed to pick up the 4% employee portion of the retirement contribution. This had the effect of reducing the final average compensation going forward by 4% plus. This would lower the projected future cost of current Tier 1 employee pensions a bit, resulting in a small amount of pension funding savings. However, if the State were to take this approach, it should be structured that the State can not renege on it in the future. Don’t know why us employees didn’t sue over it at the time … guess we still believe din public service and the amount of outrage wasn’t there.

    Anyway, the way forward will be a lot of small incremental steps … plus the aforementioned tax expansion that will have to happen.

    Note: the above suggestions pretty much only apply to SERS positions. As others have noted, the elephants in the room are TRS and SURS. Until you get the local school boards to hold down salaries, you can’t affect things much. That is why the normal cost shift will happen, now probably sooner than later, so the school boards have a reason to hold down salaries.


  25. - Steve - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:42 pm:

    “Modest”??????? The present value of many of those “modest” pensions is: $3 Million . You try and pay yourself $60,000 a year with 3% interest rates on a IRA or 401K. Modest it is not for many.


  26. - Fed up - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:44 pm:

    When the unions refuse this deal contract negotiations will go to arbitration/ mediation where their is no chance of them being given a 0% raise. Also consideration isn’t I can shoot you in the left knee or the right knee you get to chose. Pension law and Contract negotiations are seperate for good reason. It is time to start fracking and get the Chicago Casino up and rolling revenue and spreading the ramp out longer will be the way to solve this


  27. - Ghost - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:55 pm:

    I dont want to duplicate the same post elsewhere, but lets just keep it short and say while Cullertons idea is creative, its most liekely illegal.

    The law is well settled that people can not be asked to sign away or give up protected rights. the most well documented example is discrmination sexual harassment. You cant, for example, ask employees to give up protection from discrmination or sexual harassment in exchange for raises, promotions or other typical job benefits.


  28. - Budget Watcher - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:56 pm:

    Almost 20% of the current workforce qualify for retirement right now, so I would assume a significant number will simply walk. You can’t extort them if there not here. And, an already diminished state workforce would get appreciably weaker, so be prepared for more stories about ineffective and bad government.


  29. - DuPage - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:00 pm:

    @nadia12:37=Public sector or private sector really makes no difference=

    Wrong. In Illinois public sector pensions are protected by the Illinois constitution. That really does make a difference.


  30. - A guy... - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:01 pm:

    === Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:32 pm:

    ===Actually Willy, it appeared that even Justice Burke agreed with the argument as to those things contained in the Pension Code itself.===

    Shhh. “Don’t let the facts get in the way” of the single dissenting vote to make - A Guy.. -’s argument valid.====

    You’re right Willy, silly me, I was actually referring to the 13 million people who live in Illinois rather than the 7 who currently interpret the Illinois Constitution. A majority of the legislature, a bigger body, thought otherwise too. In your efforts to be cute and clever, you forgot the governed- maybe you should run for something. You’d fit right in.


  31. - Budget Watcher - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:01 pm:

    Should have said ‘You can’t extort them if they’re not here.’


  32. - Tom Joad - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:02 pm:

    Once again the unions take no blame for the rise in pension costs. They helped drive the costs of pensions upward by not negotiating pension contributions upward and by helping some of the union employees sneak into the state pension funds for minimal state work.


  33. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:09 pm:

    Oh - A Guy… -,

    That pesky Constitution ruins your rant. Sorry.

    See, governing is hard.

    You can try to hammer, you can even try to shake, but the Constitution is what keeps order and law, when those ignorant to it, try to “change” what has to be changed with parameters.

    But, if you have a Carhartt and watch…

    (Tips cap to - Norseman -, always having my back)


  34. - archimedes - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    Actually, Steve, the present value of a $60,000 annuity that increases 3% each year for 25 years discounted 3% is $1,456,000.

    In fact, for TRS, the average annual pension for new retirees this year was $49,000 a year - for a present value of $1,190,000.

    By the way, that retiree does not get social security - which would average about $24,000 a year for their pay history. So the pension, above what the rest of the private sector is entitled to through social security, is $25,000 a year.

    Social Security increases by CPI each year as well.

    So, yeah, modest pension seems about right.


  35. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:12 pm:

    - Tom Joad - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:02 pm:

    The unions did their job, representing the employees. That’s what unions do. And the percentage was adequate IF the employer payments had been made when due.

    The elected State representatives didn’t do their job, which was to control spending and fund the pensions they (on the state citizen’s behalf) were supposed to fund. The GA instead decided to short the payments and run up the credit card. Now it has to be paid.

    As far as sneaking people onto the state pension systems, the GA members did a pretty good job of that themselves for their own advantage.


  36. - East Central Illinois - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:14 pm:

    RNUG is exactly right; especially the last part about the pension cost shift going to the individual governmental bodies. This will be very detrimental to those taxing bodies that are under the PTELL impact. Unless PTELL is changed so that taxing bodies can levy outside of the aggregate, then this will be a slow death to a lot of governmental taxing bodies - - city govts., libraries, school districts, etc.


  37. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:17 pm:

    Requiring an increased employee contribution in order to receive the same benefit would be a diminishment.

    Did you miss the part of the SC ruling that said “liberally construed”?

    Let’s nip that dopey notion in the bud before it goes any further.

    Look, everyone thinks SC has tied lawmakers hands, but the unions hands have been pretty much tied as well.

    As I predicted.

    Now that the Supreme Court has tipped its hand, union leaders don’t have much negotiating room. There members certainly are not going to allow them to give up something that the Supreme Court says can never be taken away.

    Negotiation 101: Never give away something that isn’t even on the table.

    I should have said in my earlier post that I too applaud Cullerton’s efforts to find a constitutional solution to the state’s budget problems. I suspect we are headed back to MJM’s proposal to end the pension cost shift.

    As for Cook County and municipalities: you are hosed.


  38. - walker - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:21 pm:

    “Extortion” is a commonly used term by both sides in union negotiations.

    Doubtful Cullerton’s latest will occur.


  39. - The Truth - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    Can anyone say Constitutional Convention!?


  40. - Try-4-Truth - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    It frustrates me to no end when I see comments that tells the State to just “Cut spending”. Ok, where? What spending?


  41. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:35 pm:

    - The Truth - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    Doesn’t matter. Can’t negate the pensions for current employees. The underfunding has to be paid back.


  42. - Anon - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:40 pm:

    As Rich has pointed out, the ramp up is pretty much over, and the proportion of the budget dedicated to pensions levels off for the next several decades. So what’s the crisis about simply following the Edgar payment schedule? The worst pain is over.


  43. - Jimbo - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:41 pm:

    A guy, those same citizens want massive increases in program funding without large increases in taxes. Should we just switch to majority rule and throw out the balanced budget clause too? (Though I realize they monkey with it quite a bit as it is). Or hey, since we need increased revenue, why not forget about the flat income tax clause? Constitutions, both the State and federal ones, exist to prevent the whims of the day from easily changing what are seen as the founding principles of a government. Even without the clause, a contract is a contract per the federal Constitution. I know it would feel good to you to stiff the pensioners since they have a benefit you deem unnecessary, but they can’t. The massive amounts of money that have to go to the pensions now aren’t to fund luxurious pensions, they are to pay money that owed with interest. No different than bonds. The system would be over 80% funded were it not for the pension holidays. Hey I’ve got an idea, instead of trying to steal pension benefits, how about the state passes retroactive taxes for the years they skipped the pension payments to cover the shortfall, you would have to pay interest too of course. It is only fair since the citizens of the citizens of the State received services for those funds (borrowed from the pension system by skipping payments).

    Of course that is ludicrous. It wouldn’t be fair to change the rules so late in the game. Just like you can’t rewrite a contract because you haven’t held up your end.

    People don’t understand that with the state and employee contributions in their entirety growing at 7.5% per year (it is easy look at the S&P over time). You state the average pension value is 3 million dollars. I dispute that. The pension funds assume an average rate of return of 7.5%, If you had 1 million dollars invested, that would provide 75,000 dollars annually. As pensions are typically around 40k, you are looking at 533k pension value. The AAIs could be funded with principle for 29.6 years and the base of the pension would be paid entirely with interest.


  44. - Norseman - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:43 pm:

    Willy, my pleasure. Always refreshing to have someone willing to say it like it is!


  45. - Skeptic - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:44 pm:

    “I think it’s fair to say that taxpayers also pay a great cost, but AFSME never seems to acknowledge our contribution.” AFSCME members bear the same great cost as other taxpayers PLUS the pension contributions from their paychecks.


  46. - Jimbo - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:45 pm:

    Or you know, call it a million and never dip into principal once. People who don’t understand finance shouldn’t propose we toss the Constitution simply because they don’t understand how compound interest works.


  47. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:47 pm:

    - The Truth - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    While there are number of things a con-con could do, I’m not sure the IL citizens would like it. There are no magic beans.

    Some possibilities:

    1) repeal the Pension Clause, which will improve things in 30 or 40 years but does nothing to negate or payoff the current problem

    2) re-affirm school funding is a State level responsibility and set a fixed contribution percentage, which will require more state level taxation but might allow for property tax reduction

    3) change to a graduated income tax

    4) impose expanded sales tax on services

    5) impose term limits

    6) expand the state constitution militia clause to cleary state gun possession is an individual right (just threw that one in to point out once you open the door, everything is on the table for change).

    Anyway, be careful what you wish for …


  48. - Buzzie - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:48 pm:

    1. Blame the unions? Who agrees and accepts the teacher contracts—school boards (management). Most school board members are the elected representatives of their respective communities and, as such, presumably reflect the views of the voters.
    2. Public employee salaries are available for public review. Why not private employee salaries? Such an availability would allow for an apple-to-apple comparison.
    3. “A guy”—-obviously Kristen McQueary agrees with you per her editorial in today’s Chicago Tribune.


  49. - facts are stubborn things - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    AFSCME: To suggest that politicians could prevent workers from bargaining for fair wages only if they surrender a protected right is the same kind of thinking that has delayed real solutions to the pension funding problem. It’s long past time for gimmicks.

    Well said. This would completely throw the idea of bargaining on it’s back. You don’t go into a negotiation and put something on the table (pensions) which is a protected right and try to use it as leverage. That is a “straw Man” that needs smacked down….heck it is going no where and it must be meant as a message to a certain audience because Cullerton knows this is not going to happen.


  50. - facts are stubborn things - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    I always thought that Republicans would like the state to have to pay its full legal pension benefits because they are always saying they want smaller government. The best way I know of to get smaller government is to shrink the pie! Spend more money on pensions and you have less money for other programs to grow or to be started. could it be that the mantra smaller government is a code word for something else and it does not mean what I think it means?


  51. - Morty - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:55 pm:

    - “Tom Joad - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 1:02 pm:

    Once again the unions take no blame for the rise in pension costs. They helped drive the costs of pensions upward by not negotiating pension contributions upward and by helping some of the union employees sneak into the state pension funds for minimal state work.”

    Except they did, hence the 9.4 that teachers pay into TRS instead of the 9% they paid previously.

    Also, in case you missed it, the unions offered to increase employee contributions in the original Cullerton deal, but MJM and the House didn’t feel that drew enough blood, so…

    As for the people jumping into the system after minimal work- I agree.

    But that isn’t driving the cost here.

    What I find more offensive are fat cats bleeding the system from within with $100000, $200000, $300000 a year walk aways.

    Btw, MJM is one of those guys- he’s already on record saying he’d retire under “the old system”.

    Even the rabid chick from the Tribune editorial board acknowledged that the funds that were to go into pensions were used to fix roads, build infrastructure, and provide services to the state (although she completely misses the point about who REALLY benefited from keeping taxes so artifically low)

    Those people who carp about how the unions “looked away” while the state didn’t make payments are dead wrong about that too. The unions did sue for payment into the funds and were told by the ISC that the pension clause covered the fact that the state owes when it comes to pay- not how to responsibly fund that system.


  52. - facts are stubborn things - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:00 pm:

    RNUG,

    A great list of legal solutions. As you and I both know, the political road to a solution needs to take a few more twists and turns before it coincides with the legal and moral solutions so many on this board (non any better then you) have laid out.


  53. - Wallinger Dickus - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:03 pm:

    ANON @ 1:40 –As Rich has pointed out, the ramp up is pretty much over, and the proportion of the budget dedicated to pensions levels off for the next several decades. So what’s the crisis about simply following the Edgar payment schedule? The worst pain is over. –

    This is and has been a purse snatching attempt by the investment bankers to get ahold of the pension funds of tens of thousands of people covered by DB plans. One of them is running for governor.

    Remember what Rahm said? Never let a crisis go to waste? The Great Recession presented the opportunity and that opportunity is slowly slipping through the slippery fingers of those investment bankers.

    The ramp table says it all. As soon as the would-be pension fund bandits admit that at no time will all employees be retired, the crisis will abate.

    But then what the heck will command our attention and our keyboards?


  54. - Old and In the Way - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:11 pm:

    - anon. - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 12:05 pm:

    The IL constitution protects pension BENEFITS but says nothing about pension contributions. The GA can increase employee contributions as much as they want.

    Uh, no. Where do you get these ideas? The contribution formula is part of the pension. Raise the contribution without raising pension IS diminishing the pension. Quit wasting our time and space with this kind of crap! Read and learn then maybe you can actually contribute to the discourse.


  55. - Jack Handy - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:15 pm:

    This this is considered constitutional, how far away are we from things like: If you don’t take a reduction in your healthcare benefit then,

    – you will be charged $20 every time you enter a state park;
    – your tolls will double;
    – you will have to pay double to register your car.


  56. - facts are stubborn things - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:16 pm:

    We all know the answer is to pay the pension ramp and make good on promises made. How you do it is a budgetary issue and the state may not like it but it has all the ability to make it work. You don’t get re-elected as easily when you take things from people as when you give them more. It was great to spend the pension dollars and have a blue state for services and a red state for taxes. Now, if the state could just break the law and have the retirees and current employees put that same money back in that the politicians spent by reducing their earned benefits — wow that would be the con of the century. Once that was done, the politicians could start down the road of doing it again in a few years. Thank god for the third branch of government!


  57. - Ghost - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:24 pm:

    Dupage private sector retirment is protected by ERISA (which doesnt apply to govt pensions).

    BUT I get your main drift; ERISA does not have anything like the not diminsh language…..


  58. - forwhatitsworth - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:27 pm:

    EXCELLENT response!


  59. - facts are stubborn things - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    @Old and In the Way - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:11 pm:

    Exactly. We have negotiated a higher contribution in exchange for enhancing our pension benefits. Goes directly to your point that contributions and formulas are all a part of the pension benefit. I am in the “alternative system” and some years back we agreed to pay more into the system in exchange for earning 2.5% per year of service instead of the less generous 1.6/1.9/2.2 depending on years of service.


  60. - phocion - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:34 pm:

    Extortion? Like, if you don’t agree to our demands at the bargaining table we will fund your opponent in the next election.


  61. - Just Trying to Survive - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:44 pm:

    Ahoy @ 12:09

    Did you not know that public employees pay the exact same taxes on their earned money that you do?


  62. - Skeptic - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 2:48 pm:

    Jack Handy: Good luck with that one too. I doubt it’s legal for an agency to charge two different people two different rates for exactly the same transaction, especially when any differences are irrelevant to that agency. “If you’re single, your FOID costs $X, but if you’re married it costs $Y.” Not gonna fly.


  63. - Tom Joad - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:03 pm:

    Well RNUG, please tell me what legislator snuck into the GARS pension fund. And, the unions were protecting themselves. They have to get elected too.


  64. - Anon - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:13 pm:

    I think AFSCME is right here. What Cullerton is suggesting essentially denies employees their right to collective bargaining unless they give up something to which they have a constitutional right. Can you do that? I don’t think so.


  65. - facts are stubborn things - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:18 pm:

    I think Cullertons proposal is dangerous, and mean spirited. He would freeze hardworking public servants salaries for - in some cases - up to 25 years or more so that those very same public servants can receive the benefits of their constitutionally protected pension contract. That is not just holding the public servants hostage but even more importantly the Illinois Constitution.


  66. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:19 pm:

    - Tom Joad - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:03 pm:

    I was referring to a couple of legislator’s who took advantage of a bill to sneak into the TRS system.


  67. - Filmmaker Professor - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    The first person who can explain that state employees are also taxpayers gets a free doughnut!


  68. - Skeptic - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:35 pm:

    Filmmaker: My post @ 1:44pm?


  69. - Norseman - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:36 pm:

    What Tier One folks will need to know before making a decision.

    - What will be the frequency of the pay raises?
    - Will the raises be compounded?
    - Will there be a guaranteed percentage?

    IMHO any bill that gets Madigan’s approval will have so many holes in it that current employees will see minimal benefit from accepting the “deal.”


  70. - Morty - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:37 pm:

    “Extortion? Like, if you don’t agree to our demands at the bargaining table we will fund your opponent in the next election.”

    Please. As if unions have THAT power. Do you see who IEA endorsed? Lisa Madigan (and Pat Quinn). Unions have the ability to influence SOME tight races, but anyone who thinks they have to power to completely overturn the status quo is off their gourd.

    Trust me, if unions had a way to unelect MJM they would have a LONG time ago.


  71. - facts are stubborn things - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:40 pm:

    What Cullerton is really proposing is that you must give up your constitutional rights or have something of great value taken from you. I think that is such a dangerous idea and if done to state employees could be employed against other citizens in all kinds of ways. Heck the federal government could say you can keep your first amendment rights but only if you pay higher taxes.


  72. - forwhatitsworth - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:52 pm:

    Where’s “Big Mike” on this important discussion about the future of Illinois? Is he waiting until after the fall elections to ram through another kick the can down the road quick fix? Or, waiting for his daughter to pull off the “miracle of the millennium”? It’s too bad that Madigan wouldn’t even allow for the Senate’s negotiated pension legislation to be voted on in the House last year. Even though many people believe that legislation was also unconstitutional, it would have been a better place to start trying to fix this tragedy the politicians have created.


  73. - facts are stubborn things - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:59 pm:

    @- forwhatitsworth - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 3:52 pm:

    =Where’s “Big Mike” on this important discussion about the future of Illinois?=

    MJM is whatever and wherever it takes to keep a majority. He sees every issue through that lens.


  74. - Gannt Chart - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 4:06 pm:

    Dittos from me on RNUG’s commentary above. Maybe Cullerton’s trial baloon is based on the theory that there are enough near-retired workers who are “stepped out” (already at the top of their position’s pay scale steps) that they’d gladly trade raises for the compounding 3% COLA.


  75. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 4:08 pm:

    MJM is out gauging public sentiment and counting votes.

    Once he has enough critcal mass and political cover, we’ll see the TRS and SURS community college normal pension cost shift, an increased income tax rate, a new / expanded service sales tax, an dmassively increased school funding coupled to some mandated property tax reduction (of the school portion) all rolled into one “grand bargain” of a bill.

    That will be MJM’s legacy, fixing the school and pension funding. Then he’ll tip his hat and ride off into the sunset, leaving the State to Lisa.

    Note … the above is only partially snark.


  76. - Chris - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 4:32 pm:

    “Did you not know that public employees pay the exact same taxes on their earned money that you do?”

    So, are you asserting that the pension is not “earned”? I though that the basic argument is that the pension is deferred compensation, that is earned, and cannot be taken away. And the state exempts it from taxation.

    Seems to me that that is NOT the “same taxes”.


  77. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 4:32 pm:

    it`s called racheting you get back a % of your contributions and can continue in the program it`s all the rage in the private pensions


  78. - titan - Friday, Jul 25, 14 @ 4:43 pm:

    Chris @ 4:32
    Illinois does not tax retirement income (like deferred compensation or Social Security) for non-public retirees either, so the statement that public employees pay on the same terms is correct.


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