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Question(s) of the day

Thursday, Apr 28, 2011

* The Sun-Times editorializes today about the high cost of state pensions. It proposes two changes for current state employees

Two good places to start: Raising the amount employees contribute toward their pensions and/or raising the retirement age. Workers closest to retirement should be exempt.

The unions consider both efforts wrong, unfair and unconstitutional. They are intent on fighting to the bitter end. But these changes are less onerous and fairer than those proposed by [House Republican Leader Tom Cross]. And, at the negotiating table, the unions would have a mediating influence on the final product.

Something has got to give, and now is the time for all sides, particularly Gov. Quinn, to make it happen. [Emphasis added]

* The Questions: Should current state employees be forced to contribute more to the pension fund? Should retirement ages be raised for current state employees? Take polls 1 and 2 and then explain both your answers in comments, please. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - The Dark Horse - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:38 am:

    Are you looking for reasons OTHER THAN the fact that such a change would be an obvious violation of the Illinois Constitution?

  2. - The Dark Horse - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:47 am:

    BTW Rich, I would keep a close eye on this lawsuit involving pay cuts for regional school sups. It involves some of the same constitutional arguments as those that can be raised in connection with pension cuts for elected officials.

  3. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 6:28 am:

    It’s the high cost of not properly funding state pensions. The pensions themselves are modest, cost the state less to fund over these last 40 years than contributions to Social Security and a 401K would have, and are constitutionally protected contractual promises made to the state’s employees, who accepted lower salaries upfront because of the deferred compensation in the form of the pension promised to them.

    By the way, the protections for the pensions were written into the state’s constitution to make it absolutely clear to the lawyers out there that the promises were contractual in nature, and not a “gratuitous promise” that could be revoked at any time…like people are attempting to do now.

    Expect a fight whether it excludes workers “close to retirement”, or not, what ever that means.

  4. - Y2D - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 6:29 am:

    I am a current state employee and voted yes on the first and no on the second question; because, in the first question, I’m accepting of the concept of ‘everyone hurts’(i.e., the only answer is for it to hurt everyone or its not going to be enough) and in the second, I’m in my mid-fifties and getting close to the retirement criteria. It was much more difficult to impartially answer the second question since my personal interest is stronger than my civil interest. Its like looking forward to a vacation from all this crap but you ask if we should put it off for another few years - that one pains my soul but its honest.

  5. - Wensicia - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 6:58 am:

    Why should public employees pay more when the state has and continues to refuse to meet its obligations? As for raising the retirement age, I’m more tolerant of this idea.

  6. - Excessively Rabid - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:11 am:

    I didn’t vote. I would be willing to consider these changes, state constitution notwithstanding, when the state starts reliably making the contributions to which it has obligated itself. Pension reductions are not a substitute for fiscal responsibility.

  7. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:12 am:

    Yes on both counts.
    Why should government workers be any different than the rest of us who have been screwed over by CEO corporate greed, Wall Street hustlers and the price gougers in the big world of medicine.

    As you

  8. - x ace - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:15 am:

    NO - The Constitution Rules - Multiple fancy legal and moral concepts in play but seems like change would be simple BAIT AND SWITCH.

  9. - in the 'ville - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:17 am:

    Pensioners bet start to look at changes. The constitution argument will quickly go away when there is no money left because the taxpayers are growning tired of paying for more than their fair share. Time to move all government workers to defined contribution plans.

  10. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:24 am:

    Ville - Good luck with that. Oh, and more than your fair share? Your reps spent more than they had, and shorted the pension in order to do that. As I see it, you’ve been receiving services these last 40 years that you haven’t paid for. Pay your bills, or I’ll see you in court…and win.

  11. - hoohaa - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:46 am:

    Why should state employees pay more when the state will not deposit the money as it should? If the leaders had done their job the pensions would have been properly funded, instead they were taking out the money and trading projects and freebies for votes.

  12. - JustaJoe - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:46 am:

    Voted No on both. Reasons? The constitution. The failure of the legislature to meet the state’s portion of funding. The fact that changes need to be considered together as a whole, (together with overall compensation for comparable education and responsibility levels in the “market”). The fact that many public-sector jobs are, in essence, lock-ed in careers, and to get quality people in those roles, there must be security. The fact that in order to assure decision making, teaching, etc. in the public interest rather than based on political or PC considerations, there needs to be protection and security. It’s about the big picture.

  13. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:51 am:

    No on both. The taxpayers will have to pay for freeloading at the expense of public employees for the last four decades. Raise revenue. Pay your bills. Get rid of the morons responsible.

  14. - Returning Dog - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:56 am:

    I voted yes for both. I’m about 1/3rd of my way in, still relatively young. I can sdjust to whatever changes happen now, but in another few years, not so much. I’m willing to do a lot to shore up my retirement, after all my golden years are at stake.

    People who want to abandon the current system for a 401k should take note - the more employees pay into or sacrifice for the current system, the more they own it and it will be more and more difficult to abolish.

  15. - Huh? - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:58 am:

    Wensicia & hoohaa

    I second the motion! You said exactly what I was thinking about the state not properly funding their share of the pension.

  16. - Union - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:07 am:

    No and NO!

    Teacher’s pay 9.4% of their salary into the pension every year. Social Security is 6.9% Why should teachers pay more. They have always contributed and always on time!

    Why aren’t we talking about prosecuting every state legislature alive who has voted to underfund and not fund the pensions? It is called theft I believe.

    This is sort of like being robbed and when you go to court you pay for all the court costs and the robber gets more of your money.

    Pensions are great for public and private employees, but they are fading away because employers are thinking of themselves and not the employee, so they underfund, destabilize the system and then blame he worker.

    Right now a teacher hired today at age 22 has to work 47 years to receive their full pension. You can retire at 20 years in the army and some county employees.

    Why are we blaming the teachers for everything?

  17. - GoldCoastConservative - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:08 am:

    Judging from the early poll results, the readership here is heavily weighted towards state employees. To those who voted “no,” I would only suggest that the Constitutional argument to which you cling will provide little protection from creditors when the state runs out of money. Illinois can’t declare bankruptcy, but the Constitution can’t prevent default.

  18. - Returning Dog - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:18 am:

    GCC - What ‘creditor’, under the Constitution, is going to have a better claim in a default than a Consitutionally protected class, like pensioners?

  19. - You Can't Stop What's Coming - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:31 am:

    I’m afraid it’s going to have to be a voluntary option for existing employees, perhaps with some kind of ’sweetener’ added.

    New employees should be offered a radically different retirement plan with heavier contributions, and longer service requirements.

    Originally, government pay was low but the benefits very good — now it’s all very good. We can’t afford it anymore.

  20. - 4 percent - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:31 am:

    YES and YES.

    I am in the privacte sector while my spouse has been employed by the state for more than a decade.

    Since we appear to have numerous Supreme Court justices online today offering their legal opinions about the Constitution, I will offer my opinion as well. The Constitution reads that benefits may not be dimished - and they are NOT. Any benefits attained by a change in the law will be maintained fully. Future pension benefits will be reduced which have not yet been earned.

    If the pension system goes bankrupt, it cannot go to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation for a bailout and the state is not a legal guarantor. Imagine a “bankruptcy” and the impact that it would have on tens of thousands of lives.

    Nobody likes to take their medicine but its going to have to occur across the board for everybody to get the state back in the black.

  21. - Ghost - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:32 am:

    I support increasing the employee contribution. I think they should put in a plan to ramp up employee contribututions to the point where employees are paying 10%.

    Antecdotaly the few State employees I have talked to about this are more then willing to up their share to keep their current benefits, they just prefer to build up to it a percent or percent and a half a year.

    I also do not have a problem increasing the retirmenet age, but you may be better off to replacde older higher paid workers with younger lower paid workers, so this could be penny wise pound foolish.

  22. - Louis Howe - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:36 am:

    Yes…Current contribution levels too low at 4% and should be raised to at least 8%. Yes…the minimum retirement age for pubilic safety should be raised to 55 and others to age 60. In addition, retirees

  23. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:37 am:

    Voted yes to both as I’m personally willing to assume those burdens but I’d want a guarantee that the problem actually gets solved and we won’t end up in this situation 40 more years from now. I think that’s going to take a constitutional amendement to fund at the actuarially required level or a switch to 401k and/or social security, none of which will fix the problem overnight but will hopefully slowly get us back on track.

  24. - cassiopia - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:45 am:

    Most state employees believe they live in a real world, or at least in the world of their memories. That world has crashed but not yet burned.

    There will be changes or else they will have no retirement at all. At least they should pay more. They should wake up and accept this.

  25. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:48 am:

    I voted no on the contribution increase because the State hasn’t lived up to it’s part and, until they do so, there is no reason to expect them to do so in the future. Also because the State can always further raise taxes to fund it … it is a political choice to not do so. Federal law explicitly recognizes the ability of the State to tax and they expect the State to either cut expenses or increase taxes to fund state obligations. As to those who talk about a State default, excuse me, that is bankruptcy language and the State can’t declare bankruptcy. And even if it could, the employees who have paid in all these years would have a better claim than anyone else.

    Also voted no on increasing the age, but I am open to a discussion on that. Would it be a fixed age, would the rule of 85 still apply regardless of age, etc.? Really need more details to have an informed opinion. For now, I’m against it because the current rules were the terms of the employment contract.

    The other reason I voted no on both is, as Rich pointed out the other day, the State has always muddled through, even when the funding levels were much lower. And (assuming I understood what was written) it has been reported the recent “reforms” far overshoot the equilibrium objective and will have the employees fully funding the systems eventually anyway.

    The pension debt won’t go away through this kind of tinkering. The problem can only be solved though proper funding … it just takes political will to do the right thing, something that has long been lacking under the Capitol dome.

  26. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:51 am:

    Other than the fact that both are unconstitutional?

    How about the fact that the reason the pension system is underfunded isn’t that current employees have failed to make payments, but their Employer aka The Taxpayers have failed to make theirs?

    To me, this is no different than American Airlines raiding their employee pension fund to pay bonuses to executives.

    A better solution, based on the recent analysis of the pensions for new hires, is to deprivatize state government, use the money we currently pay private contractors to hire more state employees, who will in turn erase the debt of our pension system over time!

  27. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:54 am:

    Making employees contribute more will still, not do anything to address the unfunded liability. Secondly, by how much? Having them contribute an extra 1% of salary does not produce significant savings to the State. Would this only apply to tier 1 employees or tier 2 as well?

  28. - Ghost - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:56 am:

    === The problem can only be solved though proper funding ====

    but is not one big step towards proper fundng to have the employees put the money in directly and put less of that contribution in the hands of a general assembly who can redirect it?

  29. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:00 am:

    Within the parameters that Rich emboldened:

    Question 1 - Yes

    I believe that one of the things about the fixed benefit plan that frost my cake the most is the assumptions used on the return rate. At a minimum, the employees contribution should be adjusted to take into account extended periods of time where the portfolio underperforms. People would say that when the portfolio over performs there should be an adjustment too. I agree, if the fund is FULLY funded to the actuarially correct amount (which I think is about 80% of obligations). At that time, the contribution should decrease. In many pension programs, the adjustment is usually taken as increased benefits, and I think that practice should stop.

    Question 2 - Yes

    The retirement age should be allowed to adjust based on actuarial life expectancy.

    Posters mention the constitutional argument. I ask this, why does the pension constitutional provision hold more water than the balanced budget provision? We seem to take no action when the balanced budget amendment is ignored, why do you all care about the pensions now? Arguably, ignoring the balanced budget affects FAR more people than do the pension provisions. If you argue one should be followed, you should be arguing the other be followed.

  30. - Roadiepig - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:01 am:

    From many of the comments here it seems the right wing talking points have sunk in and the pension shortfall is solely due to greedy union thugs and the gold plated Cadillac retirement packages, right? Its obvious these folks won’t be happy until the courts get involved so I guess its inevitable that’s where we are headed. Don’t look at the big picture and realize how much the GA were derelict in their duty when the constantly took “pension vacations” to fund their pet projects. But that’s not the problem is it? Just greedy state workers…

  31. - Fed up - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:02 am:

    It all depends on what the employees are paying now. 9% seems like a reasonable amount. The state employees paying less than that need to increase their contributions. The difference with Wisconsin is that slot of those employees were paying 0% towards their pensions.
    I notice that Massachusetts has also just passed a Wisconsin style collective bargaining bill. Hmm I believe Massachusetts is completely controlled by dems so don’t think it can’t happen here.

  32. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:07 am:

    Ghost-Great Idea, I contribute more to my pension, so the state won’t be tempted to redirect their share to other services that you enjoy. Oh, and I’ll do that dollar for dollar from the increase in my salary that I’ll demand. See, I pay my bills, and I use my meager salary to do that. If I’m going to be taking less home due to increased pension contributions, then I’ll want that made up in a salary increase up front. I pay higher taxes just like everyone else out there. How is my taking it on the chin twice my fair share, but not yours?

  33. - Nick Name - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:09 am:

    YDD, that sounds like a ponsi scheme to me.

    It looks to me the State and taxpayers are on the hook for everything. This isn’t a natural disaster or something that could not have been anticipated. The State and the taxpayers made a conscious and calculated decision every year to not fund the pensions. They continue to do so. Wether you support or oppose the current law, the lawmakers and the Governor have known of the problem for decades and have not dealt with it appropriately. Like everything they do, they continue down their same path until a crisis arrives and then they raise taxes during lame duck and hope everyone forgets by the next election. This is what they are best at and it is very calculated.

  34. - On Vacation - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:18 am:

    YES & YES

    I’m a member of AFSCME. I’ve been with the state for over a decade. I spent almost 15 years in the private sector before coming to the state.

    I’d be more willing to contribute more and work longer to ensure that none of my fellow union brothers and sisters lose their jobs.

    I did that in the private sector. Everyone in my company had our wages frozen and raises diminished for a few years to make sure there were no lay-offs. I rather spread the losses around a bit to keep people from losing their jobs.

    I hope my union leadership is cognizant of the anti-union mood and economic realities facing the state and the country. I think a lot of these issues are being exacerbated by Republicans and Tea Party members fanning the flames. I suspect things might not be as bad as some make it.

    I’m very concerned that corporations can make unfettered contributions to political candidates. That is going to destroy our country more quickly than pension problems and the unions.

    However, I think the reality is, is that we’ve got to give a little for the common good and the survival of the union.

  35. - 3 beers to Springfield - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:18 am:

    According to a phone survey I responded to earlier this week, (some?) State employees can now retire will full benefits after 20 years and get full health insurance benefits upon retirement. If the first is true, 20 years should become 30 and health benefits should be provided at a group rate paid by the retiree but only if the retiree is not eligible for Medicare. After Medicare eligibility, no state-paid health benefits.

  36. - Rob Roy A.K.A. Ignorant Troll - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:24 am:

    Do we really need 60 or 65 year old people watching nice young inmates? And what everybody leaves out is the pensions are figured as a % for each year of service. Yes you can retire with 20 years of service if your age is 55 (DOC Alt. Formula rule of 75) but its a pretty modest sum at that point. It takes 32 years to achieve the golden parachute that is talked about, Elected officals get to that same level after 20 years. But very few corrections people ever last 32 years. But for each year longer that is worked the % goes up. I voted yes for paying small amount more as we pay 9.5% and then add SSI to thats 6.9% SSI figure used from Union above. And I voted no for raising the age.

  37. - Robert - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:24 am:

    Yes and Yes. The reality is that there won’t be enough money in the funds soon, so while these changes will no doubt be painful, they are better than the head-in-the-sand approach of ignoring the problem or the pie-in-the-sky approach of assuming legislators will all of a sudden adequately fund pensions by severely cutting social services and/or raising taxes again.

  38. - Matt - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:26 am:

    Yes/Yes. Things are screwed up and everything needs to be on the table. Stop whining.

  39. - Quiet Sage - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:30 am:

    The Sun-Times offers a far more moderate proposal than the horrors promulgated by the Chicago Tribune/Sidley & Austin/the bi-partisan House leadership. An increase in the contribution level is not necessarily unconstitutional if coupled with increases in benefits (of course, the total package would be expected to decrease total pension liabilities).

  40. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:39 am:

    I would be willing to take the 6% raise and put that toward my pension. I disagree with raising the retirement age. Increasing the age will cause the retirement incomes to increase too. Plus the increase in Salary will cause problems with the state funds that pay the Salary.

  41. - Rob Roy A.K.A. Ignorant Troll - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:48 am:

    Saint is correct raising the age will also raise the payment %. I’m all for a 401k plan but it would never work ! The state would have to fund their portion 100% and could not take pension holidays like they have in the past.

  42. - langhorne - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:56 am:

    pay more–no. the problem is the state hasnt paid its share, not inadequacy of member contribution.

    raise the retirement age–no. rule of 85 is reasonable. its a nice balance between age and service and leaves it up to the individual to decide if they can get by w that level of income. or they may want to work full or part time at something else. setting a mandatory minimum age in the upper 60s is punitive and would have a deleterious effect on the workforce.

    i retired recently at 61 w 35 yrs of svc. i left while i still liked what i did, but i was ready to go. if i stayed another year i would be netting just over $8/hr.

  43. - wordonthestreet - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:56 am:

    Contribute more? Yes. Why? The salaries state workers make today (compared to the private sector) are quite generous, especially compared to what they were 15-40 years ago. Then if you add in the other “benefits” like health insurance, most state workers today are very well paid for thier efforts.

    Raise retirement age? Not necessarily… but should raise the years of service required for retirement (work 20 years for ISP and draw hefty retirement checks for another 40 years makes no sense to me).

  44. - Sonic Infidel - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:03 am:

    I voted “no” on both counts because it has always been my understanding that the pensions themselves are NOT the problem. The real problem is the legislature’s past actions of putting off pension payments and setting up the ridiculous balloon payment schedule.

    Maybe pensions should be reformed. That’s a real possibility. But focusing on the pensions instead of the legislature’s poor planning does a disservice to the entire discussion.

  45. - Shemp - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:06 am:

    Since it’s well established the State can’t afford its share and the problem is not getting better, I say leave it the same and put our heads in the sand and reevaluate our options in another 20 years.

  46. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:06 am:

    ==The reality is that there won’t be enough money in the funds soon==

    That is completely false! There will be enough money in all of the funds. In fact, if economic conditions improve there will be more than enough money in the funds. The state just has to follow the law as it was passed and signed and make their payments required by those laws that they passed.
    They just don’t want to do that. They would rather have the employees pay (again).

  47. - @ all - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:13 am:

    Seems wrong to me (though I am a public employee) to balance decades of underfunding in the pension system on the backs of just those of us currently on the payroll. If all those who came before me are enjoying such sweet pension deals in retirement, then I think the right thing to do would be to tax pension income, which I will gladly also pay one day when I retire.

  48. - Shemp - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:17 am:

    I’m continually amused by the notion we shouldn’t change the State’s unsustainable retirement plan because the State didn’t contribute enough. If the State is so far in the red and therefore can’t apparently afford its share, then how the heck is it ever going to be fixed? It’s easy to say what the State shouldn’t have done, but if the money isn’t there, where’s it supposed to come from now? Maybe Afscme should have foregone the last increase and put it toward pension contributions to ensure the stability of their members pensions???

    At some point we have to face the fact we started and promised things we couldn’t deliver. SS has increased the age for eligibility , but State pensions can’t be changed?

  49. - Not a S.Ct. Justice, but... - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:22 am:

    As a lawyer who has researched this thoroughly, here are the answers. Current employees can be forced to contribute more, but the retirement age cannot be tinkered with.

    That being said, pension reform is needed. The State must be forced to make every single payment. Look though at the Cook County pension fund. The County has made all of its payments, does not allow gimmicks like spiking (pension based on highest 48 month average over last 10 years), does not allow sick time to be used to enhance benefit amount, and requries 8.5% from employees. Still, the County is only funded around 70%. So even there, something needs to be done.

  50. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:24 am:

    One interesting way of looking at the pension underfunding is that those monies that were not contributed to the pension fund are the some of the very same dollars that go toward paying state employees. So, if the state fully funded the pension program, there would be less money to available for wages and salaries and there would be less government workers.

  51. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:25 am:

    That’s right, Shemp. State pensions can’t be changed. Pay up. The money is there. They had no problem approving next year’s appropriation. They will have to just keep doing that.

  52. - JustAQuestion - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:26 am:

    The money in the retirement system…is ALL the money the state workers HAVE contributed still there or is that also money that the legislature has used for other purposes? If that is the case then raising the amuont the employees contribute will have no effect because the legislature will just keep siphoning it off for other purposes.

  53. - BobbySox - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:26 am:

    This is such a waste of time to debate if the state should do something that is clearly forbidden in the Constitution. It will also be an enormous waste of money and resources to implement unconstitutional changes and then have them overturned.

    Let’s spend out time and resources finding ways to pay the state obligations that were ignored for the past 50 years plus, not on how to shortchange or punish the victims!

  54. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:32 am:

    @word on the street -

    The myth that public sector employees make more than private sector employees when you take into account job classifications and educational and training requirements has been REPEATEDLY debunked.

    === At some point we have to face the fact we started and promised things we couldn’t deliver. ===

    If we can provide over $1.6 billion in tax loopholes for Illinois corporations each year - including tens of millions in subsidies for the newspaper industry - than we can afford to meet our pension obligations.

    We’re just choosing not to.

    Its pretty funny that the Sun-Times editorial board calls for compromise on pensions in the name of the common good, shared sacrifice, yada-yada…not once I’ve I seen the newspapers offer to give up or even trim their taxpayer subsidies.

  55. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:35 am:

    ==As a lawyer who has researched this thoroughly, here are the answers. Current employees can be forced to contribute more==
    Sorry counselor but a forced increase in contributions without a corresponding increase in benefits is an obvious impairment and diminishment and therefore unconstitutional. Reasearch that.

  56. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:36 am:

    @bobbysox -

    That should be a REAL fear for the Sun-Times and Joe Voter.

    What if the Sun-Times is wrong and it turns out that changing the pension system IS illegal?

    When the courts rule, we’ll just find ourselves dug into an even deeper hole.

    I say abolish the tax expenditures for corporations, which is Constitutional, use some of those monies to reduce the overall tax rate for corporations and individuals, and use the rest to meet our CURRENT obligations.

  57. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:38 am:

    Employees have been paying their fair share all along. The move to have the employees pay more is to make up for what the employer did not pay. This is especially unfair with respect to those for whom that state does not even contribute to Social Security (ie. teachers).

    The retirement age should go up to reflect increasing life expectancy.

    Another way to adjust the system to address underfunding and increased life expectancy would be to allow for increased contributions from those who plan to retire at 62 or 65 or 67.

  58. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:38 am:

    Bill is correct. An increased contribution without increased pension benefits diminishes the net benefits and is therefore unconstitutional.

  59. - howie - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:39 am:

    I voted No and No, based on the idea that those are the only two options presented. I’m a 22 yr IDOC employee, and I currently pay 8.5% of my salary into the pension fund. I’ve never missed a payment. The state most certainly cannot say that. As for raising the retirement age, does anyone think it’s a good idea to have 60 year old Correctional Officers? By the time I’ll be eligible to retire, under the current plan, I will have worked in a prison for 31 years and 4 months. Ask anyone who has ever worked in a prison….that’s long enough.

    Realistically, I know we’re going to take a hit, and I can live with that. I don’t mind paying more for what I was promised 22 years ago, but if the state thinks they can plug the hole by screwing their employees, they’re wrong.

  60. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:41 am:

    State employees, even with benefits added in, make an average of 5% less then comparably educated private sector employees, so I have no idea where you’re getting your facts WordonTheStreet.

  61. - howie - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:44 am:

    As for the phone poll that claims state employees can retire after 20 years with full benefits, that is false. A standard formula retiree who retires at 20 years will receive 33.4% of their gross. Alternative formula would receive 50%. That’s not even close to full benefits.

  62. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:48 am:


    What number shall we use in our calculation to factor in job security? Do the higher educated employees need that education to do their jobs and is the education a requirement of the job function, or have they chosen government work even though they may be overqualified?

  63. - virgil - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:49 am:

    everyone of the present retirees and present workers benefits were purchased and paid for with hard work and long hours. there were many concessions to obtain these earned benefits. lower pay, longer hours, less insurance– you name it. if we were allowed to recoup what has been conceded then let’s sit down and discuss it. you know/// like we live in a democracy!!

  64. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:52 am:

    If you assume that retirement age must be raised to account for longer life expectancy, which I don’t, the only constitutional way to do that for current employees would be to offer them ENHANCED benefits to continue working, on a completely optional basis, of course.

  65. - Not a S.Ct. Justice, but... - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:57 am:

    Well, reasonable minds can differ and I don’t want to get into an argument, so I will say this and then be silent.

    To be unconstitutional the diminishment must be direct. By your logic, salaries could never be cut because that would reduce the amount of the pension based on the formula. Cutting salaries indirectly reduces the benefit. Likewise, raising the contribution indirectly diminishes the benefit, but you would still get the same amount in you pension check so it is not a direct diminshment.

    We’ll just have to wait and see.

  66. - Responsa - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:57 am:

    ==their Employer aka The Taxpayers have failed to make theirs? To me, this is no different than American Airlines raiding their employee pension fund to pay bonuses to executives. YDD==

    =that sounds like a ponsi scheme to me. The State and the taxpayers made a conscious and calculated decision every year to not fund the pensions. Nick==

    Really? Even for hyperbole, accusing taxpayers of being conscious and calculated perpetrators of a Ponzi fraud, or comparing taxpayers to airline execs who got a bonus is beyond the pale. Earth to Afscme members–we the taxpayers have faithfully paid our taxes into “government” and we got royally screwed, also. Fightin’ language is unlikely to be a case maker for state employees who are justifiably scared and angry. We taxpayers are scared and angry, too.

    Taxpayers in the millions have just absorbed a very hefty income tax increase to help out. Sorry, now it’s your bid. (I voted yes and yes.)

  67. - Small Town Liberal - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:05 am:

    - Do the higher educated employees need that education to do their jobs and is the education a requirement of the job function, or have they chosen government work even though they may be overqualified? -

    So you think the number may be off because a number of highly educated individuals are willing to empty garbage at the capitol because they desperately want the job security AFSCME provides? Somehow I doubt this…

  68. - Pat Robertson - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:08 am:

    I voted no on both counts for pragmatic reasons. First, the state cannot do either for bargaining unit employees until their current agreements expire. “Forcing employees to contribute more” is, in fact, nothing more than a pay cut. It would be better for the state to negotiate a real pay cut than to force increased contributions. Why? If you have an employee making $50,000 and contributing $5,000 toward his pension, you still have to pay him $45,000 and eventually pay him a pension based on that $50,000 salary. The state would be better off cutting his pay to $45,000 and picking up the pension obligation itself, because it will still have to pay him $45,000 but will eventually have to pay him a pension based on $45,000 salary rather than $50,000. Also, if you don’t think your negotiators can convince the union to accept a pay cut, passing a law requiring the pension contribution to increase will result in them negotiating a pay raise to make up for some or all of the increase, making the state even worse off than before.

    Increasing the pension contribution and retirement age for merit comp can be done immediately (ignoring constitutional issues), but it will drive even more into the unions, and will encourage others to retire now. I know of two who retired recently out of fear that waiting would cost them. Either way, this will cost the state.

    There is no free lunch.

  69. - just sayin' - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:08 am:

    Yes absolutely. State employee pensions and benefits should be brought in line with the private sector. The bloated cost is killing our state. Everyone has to sacrifice in these times. Absurd that public servants would think they should be an exception.

    And 10 bucks says every person on here saying otherwise is either a state worker, spouse of a state worker, or a retired state worker. At least have the decency to acknowledge such an obvious bias.

  70. - Small Town Liberal - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:11 am:

    I voted no and no. If the unions want to take on these costs as a part of negotiations, they can do that. I don’t agree with breaking contracts.

  71. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:14 am:

    @Responsa -

    There is not enough space on this blog to run through the long list of tax breaks and tax loopholes enacted and/or funded during the same period which pensions were underfunded.

    Perhaps the most egregious and direct example is that we’ve exempted the pensions of millionaires from taxation while we’ve underfunded the pensions of public employees who average just $20,000 a year.

    So yes, the comparison to private sector pension raiders IS appropriate.

    As for the taxpayers faithfully paying their taxes goes, let me just say that Illinoisans have been faithfully UNDERPAYING their taxes for as long as we’ve had an income tax, enjoying the lowest tax rate in the nation.

    And no, I’m not a member of AFSCME, but I do believe that we should be a state and a nation of promise keepers, not promise makers.

    Or, as Seinfeld said:

    “You know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.”

  72. - Plutocrat03 - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:14 am:

    The constitutional issues are not as clear and in favor of the pensioners as some of the bloggers would like to believe. The State courts will ultimately step in to clarify where the line will be drawn.

    There are two sides to the equation. Contributions and distribution.

    A nearly 10% deduction seems like a reasonable contribution, so I’m not sure how much more is reasonable.

    On the other side of the equation, there should be a revision as to when pensions should get collected. Once qualified, consideration should be given to collecting pensions only after a certain age. e.g. 60 , 62, 65, perhaps aligned with social security guidelines. Furthermore, the practice of multiple government pensions, aka, doubling dipping should be limited to collecting only one pension.

  73. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:18 am:

    Cinci, if I didn’t do my job, I’d be fired. I have as much job security as my private sector counterparts in that regard. As for educational requirements, my job requires a degree just as it does in my private sector side job. I have that side job because I need to put my children through college, and I chose to work for the government because I thought the pension would more likely be there for my wife and I when I retired, so we wouldn’t be a burden on our children. I financially relied on that contractual promise each year, for 30 years of contracts, that I have chosen to work for the state. You seem to be intimating that state employment has some sort of Job Security not had in the private sector. I can assure you that that myth does not apply for anyone I’ve ever worked with over those 30 years.

    You suggested before that the state can just layoff people to obtain the needed pension money. That’s always been an option. I say go for it, but if you mess with my pension benefits in any way, expect a fight.

  74. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:20 am:

    === State employee pensions and benefits should be brought in line with the private sector. ===

    Heck yeah!

    Alan Fishman was the CEO of Washington Mutual for just 17 days before it failed. He got $19 million in severance pay and signing bonuses.

    You want more?

    Let’s talk about the Tribune Company giving their management team bonuses for driving the company into bankruptcy while firing good reporters.

    Shall we go on?

    Please stop feeding the world this garbage about how government needs to be run more like the private sector because, and I’m paraphrasing award-winning business author Jim Collins here, “Most of the private sector is poorly run.”

  75. - Small Town Liberal - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:24 am:

    - And 10 bucks says every person on here saying otherwise is either a state worker, spouse of a state worker, or a retired state worker. -

    I’m unmarried and actively employed by a private sector company. Where’s my $10?

  76. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:24 am:

    ==State employee pensions and benefits should be brought in line with the private sector==
    The COST of state employee pension plans is LESS than private sector even if the private employer does not provide some sort of 401K match. Paying a retiree pension check costs the state $0. All pensions are paid by the plan not the state.
    The current plans are a bargain for the state. Taxpayers should be saying thank you to state employees for keeping their costs down.

  77. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:25 am:


    Are you saying that Quinn, the CEO of the state, and various department heads should get huge pensions? Or would you rather compare the deals given state workers to the WORKERS at a company, especially one that is non-unionized?

  78. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:28 am:


    I have a long standing theory that public-sector jobs are more secure because of the inherent conflict of interest between unionized public sector workers (and their campaign funds) and the politicians they support, who are the same people who approve benefits and wages. This conflict does not exist in the private sector.

  79. - Demoralized - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:33 am:

    I get really sick of the assumption that all state workers are set in terms of pay and benefits. Let me clue you in on something. I’m not in the union. I haven’t had a pay raise in years. I take 24 furlough days (which is about a month’s pay by the way), my healthcare costs have gone up and now I might have to change plans altogether. Now, you want to come after my pension. I think I have already paid my fair share.

  80. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:38 am:

    I’d like my $10 also. I work for a private university. The U takes 4% of my paycheck, kicks in another 6% and drops it in my TIAA-Cref account. They don’t take that money and use it to build buildings or hire staff, it’s mine. It will be there when I retire. This is how *all* pensions should work.

  81. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:42 am:

    === To be unconstitutional the diminishment must be direct. ===

    Um, from Article I, Section 16 of the Illinois Constitution:

    “No ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts or making an irrevocable grant of special privileges or immunities, shall be passed.”

    State employees have a contract. It can’t be diminished. End of story.

  82. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:54 am:

    Cincy, regardless of your theory, the facts prove otherwise since public employees, on average, make 5% less than their private sector counterparts. Apparently the cozy relationship that you think exists between public sector unions, and the politicians they support isn’t as cozy as you think. Public employees are a very small percentage of the electorate. Politicians are much more influenced by the vast majority of their non-state-employee voters. That’s the way it normally works in a democracy. I can see how you could be confused, because the Koch brothers basically bought the election for their boy Scott in Wisconsin.

  83. - Downstate Dem - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:58 am:

    It looks like the poll is breaking into two groups, those with government pensions, who aren’t endeared to any changes i the present system and those in the private world, who don’t have those benefits or have to pay for what they will get when they retire.
    I don’t know if the constitutional question has any merit, when the funds dry up and the money is not available to pay out.
    Whether anyone likes it on not, changes have to be made to the present system, they will be hard, they will hurt and they will be unpopular.

  84. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:01 pm:

    “…the facts prove otherwise since public employees, on average, make 5% less than their private sector counterparts…”
    PS- Can you cite a source on that? I am surprised, since that is not what I heard reported on NPR, unless you ignore benefits as part of total compensation.

  85. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:03 pm:

    “- Demoralized - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:33 am:

    I get really sick of the assumption that all state workers are set in terms of pay and benefits. Let me clue you in on something. I’m not in the union. I haven’t had a pay raise in years. I take 24 furlough days (which is about a month’s pay by the way), my healthcare costs have gone up and now I might have to change plans altogether. Now, you want to come after my pension. I think I have already paid my fair share.”
    Demoralized- That does sound horrible. Why do you stay in the state job?

  86. - Lower Middle Class in Illinois - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:06 pm:

    I began my career at a community college after my children became school age. In 2012 I will have 30 years in. I have a B.A. in accounting and my salary is in the mid forties. I have paid faithfully out of each and every paycheck, currently paying in excess of 9%. During these years that I paid in faithfully, I do not know what the state did with the money they did not pay into the system. The legislators figured out how to spend that money so let them figure out where to get money to replace it! Honor the contract and the constitution and quit treating people like me as if we have done something to be punished for!

  87. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:08 pm:

    ==when the funds dry up==
    Please, stop. The funds will not dry up. The state is legally obligated to appropriate the revenue mandated by the ramp legislation. They have done so for fy 2012 and are legally obligated to do so until 2045. That, coupled with the draconian cuts endured by new employees, will overfund the plans by that time.
    This sky is falling rhetoric is designed to create a crisis that doesn’t exist. The crisis is the rest of the state budget and the lack of cash flow caused by the fiscal mismanagement of the same players who now are calling for pension reform.
    Do your jobs, legislators. Raise reveune, cut spending, whatever. Follow the constitution and leave state pensioners and employees alone.

  88. - bman - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:10 pm:

    State employees are not the problem, it is the state that has not met its obligation. Imagine the expense if the legislature treated state employees like they do themselves. Now there is a waste. As for raising the retirement age, why not. Retirement should matche Social Securitie’s retirement age.

  89. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:11 pm:

    Here’s a link, Anon:

  90. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:12 pm:

    Downstate Dem,

    The Illinois Constitution isn’t worth more than a 2-ply roll of Charmin, at least that’s how people considered it when it came to the Constitutional requirement for the GA to have a balanced budget. Now suddenly, those people who didn’t care about that are suddenly Constitutionalists.

    I have said all along, the State should live up to its obligations. But the hypocrisy of those who didn’t give a damn about overspending/undertaxing is incredible.

  91. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:17 pm:


    I’ll see your left-wing think tank and raise you a Bureau of Labor Statistics report:

  92. - dupage dan - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:17 pm:

    As a state employee I voted yes on both accounts. Part of me just wants to buck the trend that some here assume.

    More seriously, I like the idea that the State should raise my pay to match what they should be putting into the pension. I can assure you I will put that extra into the fund in much the same way I am now - a forced deduction. That would insure that the whole amount, my contribution as well as the states’ is placed into the pension fund. Let’s face it - it all comes from the same source, right?

    As far as the retirement age, SSA is raising their retirement age, why not us? It could be done, I suppose, in a way that allows for folks to retire earlier with the understanding that they will receive much less if they opt out before 65. I have to disclaim, however. I am close to retirement and would not likely be affected by these changes but, as some point out here, there are no certainties, are there?

    I don’t know if any of that is legal - I don’t much care. The questions was asked but didn’t specify I had to be a member of the bar. Just sayin’.

  93. - Cook County Commoner - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:24 pm:

    It is truly unfortunate that many state workers must now suffer for the collusion between their bargaining representatives and elected officials. In the real world, these pension promises would be set aside as void due to collusion between the workers and the negotiators,ie., the elected officials who swore to consider the well-being of all Illinois citizens. Also, contract law provides for abrogation or modification of contractual rights when faced with impossibility of performance. The Illinois Constitution may also be tainted by the same collusion, but I am unaware of the process for voiding a portion of a constitution on the basis of dishonest ratification. But, as the union line goes, the amendment to the 1970 (?) Constitution was to ensure that pension promises were treated as contracts. Well folks, contracts are broken everyday, and often for good reasons. Certainly, many state and local government workers paid into their pensions, but I’m still waiting to see whether the promised returns beare any rational relation to benefits promised, including the money state and local governments should have contributed. Let’s include health insurance. This issue has been boiling for about a decade and simmering in the pot long before that. Retirement of baby boomers raised the red flags quite awhile ago. There is sufficient money to continue paying out in most state and local gov plans (about 600 of them) for quite a while. Make some plans for a cutback on payments or a complete cessation because increasing taxes and diminishing public services is just going to hasten plan failures as residents leave the state.

  94. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:24 pm:

    Anon, here’s a better link:

    Cincy, that report doesn’t take into affect educational level. There’s a lot more burger-flippers out there in the private sector holding that average down. That’s why Professor Keefe’s paper is a much more valid in comparing public vs private sector pay. Try again.

  95. - Responsa - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:27 pm:

    ==There is not enough space on this blog to run through the long list of tax breaks and tax loopholes enacted and/or funded during the same period which pensions were underfunded==

    YDD, you may be correct about that. Perhaps that is a future subject for QOTD. But today it is just a “look, bunnies!” tactic. Regardless, the vast majority of us taxpayers in Illinois are not millionaires and we have not, and do not, benefit from any of these so called breaks and loopholes. We were certainly not complicit in their enactment. We have “faithfully” paid every penny into government coffers that we were asked to, including some of the highest property and sales taxes in the country. We are now paying considerably higher income taxes. We are the source of the revenue stream to run the state.

    You appear to take umbrage at the implication that because of the principled position you are taking you must be an Afscme member. But then, you seem to be willing to lump all Illinois taxpayers into a near criminal conspiracy to defraud pension funds. Taxpayers like me take umbrage at that. Yes we do.

    I’m not trying to be argumentative, YDD. I am just pointing out that the war on piker taxpayers narrative is neither healthy, logical, nor is it likely to persuade. It is politically tone deaf. We resent being called enablers, pikers or ponzi criminals, because we are not.

  96. - lincoln's beard - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:27 pm:

    At the very least, non-union employees should have the choice of opting out of the pension system. I’m paying 4% of each paycheck into this stupid thing and there’s pretty much zero chance that I’ll be working for the state long enough to get a pension. When I leave state employment, all I’m going to get are my contributions back without any interest or earnings. What a rip. At least my 457 plan vests immediately and that money can grow while I work here, even if the state isn’t contributing toward that either.

  97. - June Retiree - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:27 pm:

    Changes are unconstitutional, they used our $ illegally.

  98. - Hickory - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:32 pm:

    Make it simple! Leave the pensions alone. Reduce the gross pay at every level and let the State employees go to the private sector if they want to try to make more money. No need to argue about the private or publice pay levels. Just let the market take care of it. I’m guessing very few will leave the public employment ranks.

  99. - Reality Check - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:34 pm:

    @Anon 12:01

    Per University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professors Keith Bender and John Heywood:

    Re wages, state employees in Illinois are paid 12.5% less their than private sector counterparts. Illinois local government employees are paid 13.3% less than private sector.

    Re total compensation, nationwide, state employees lag the private sector by 6.8% and local gov’t employees trail by 7.4%. When the comparison is refined to large private employers, state employees earn 10.4% less in total comp, local gov’t 9.8% less.


  100. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:35 pm:


    The state passes a balanced budget every year … it says so right in it. Of course, they use ridiculous assumptions in terms of revenue and costs in order to declare it “balanced”. Unfortunately, “balanced” is whatever the legislature says is “balanced”.

  101. - Reality Check - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:39 pm:

    @Cinc 12:17

    Try reading the document you falsely claim supports your position:

    “Compensation cost levels in state and local government should not be directly compared with levels in private industry. Differences between these sectors stem from factors such as variation in work activities and occupational structures. Manufacturing and sales, for example, make up a large part of private industry work activities but are rare in state and local government. Professional and administrative support occupations (including teachers) account for two-thirds of the state and local government
    workforce, compared with one-half of private industry.” (Technical Note, page 4)

  102. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:42 pm:


    The report by Keefe doesn’t take into account if there is a need for the higher education requirement, which is the case I have been making above. Do you (rhetorical) need that MA in education or does a BA work? Is an associate degree needed to swing that wrench, or will a high school diploma do.

    I contend that just because the education level is higher, doesn’t mean that it is required to be higher (the requirements associated with government employment compared to its private sector equivalent position would be an interesting study). The increased level of education reflects nothing more than a choice by public sector employees to accept government work which has measurably more benefits (including the wish to be a PublicServant), including job security over a position in the private sector.

  103. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:50 pm:


    Excellent point. But was is Topinka, verified by Quinn, say we are running a deficit? Was the intent of the constitutional provision to divorce the budget from its actuals? If that is the case, what authority is given to overrun the authorized budget allocations? What does this boil down to, unrealistic revenue projections on which the budget is based?

    I am not aiming any of that toward you, Retired, but it sure seems to me that the Constitutional provision is a joke. And if the budget amendment is a joke, why isn’t the pension one?

  104. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:51 pm:

    Cincy, help me understand your theory about the state employing more highly educated individuals that the particular position requires by identifying a few positions where this is occurring.

  105. - In All Fairness - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:53 pm:

    I don’t believe it is fair to change the rules of the game in mid stream. The State and some municipalities have not properly funded pensions and the workers should not be blamed for this or benefits reduced for current employees in the new Tier One system becuase politicians did not make the tough decisions they should have when they should have.

    It is also very clear that the intent of the people who drafted the State constitution was to create a contract between the State and employees that could not be changed by the whim of the legislature.

    Also the State needs to deal with its own pension obligations and leave IMRF out of it. The last round of pension reform included IMRF without much real thought. IMRF provides very modest benefits and most IMRF employees do not get any retiree paid health insurance. The fund was 100% funded prior to the recession and is healthy even today. IMRF employees are typically your school janitors, support personnel, public works employees and non union staff of cities and schools. They do not get lavish pensions and for the State to throw them in the mix just becuase it sounds good to the public is wrong.

  106. - anon - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:00 pm:

    People need to learn the facts before they comment. Teachers, for certain, are being villianized. The pension problem is due to the fact that OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS chose to “borrow” from the fund that teachers pay almost 10% of their yearly wage into. State workers’ retirment benefits ARE in line with other jobs…even less lucrative than many others. There are other more serious drains on Illinois.

  107. - state worker #3,564 - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:00 pm:

    I voted no on both. Contractual law and practice going back to the Code of Hammurabi says the current deal is immutable. I put a lifetime into the job under certain contractual agreements and unless you can give me my 26 or so years BACK, to work for someone else with a different deal, I refer you to the best quote from the movie: “Goodfellas”.

    As to new union members just joining, under the NEXT contract, well, that is and should be a different situation. I don’t mind a 2-tier system, long as it too is nit subject down the line to one-sided attempts to alter the bargain and reduce benefits or salary in violation of contract. I think it is fair to let members of the previous contract “age-out” of the system. But we’re all kidding ourselves if we think even making these kinds of concessions on the union side will help anything, if the legislators and governors refuse to raise revenues and to actually PAY IT INTO THE PENSION.

    Really, what it boils down to is what it always boils down to. Politicians are afraid to raise taxes and afraid to say no to new spending. Nothing will change unless those fellas grow a spine.

  108. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:03 pm:

    Using education as an example, does that Masters degree provide enormous additional value for an elementary school teacher.

    Or this:

    “Duties include processing payment vouchers from vendor invoices and maintaining the local purchase order system utilizing the CARS accounting system; utilizing the DHS Trust Fund System for transaction entries; access and utilize the Commodity Control System for inventory transactions; assist in performing physical inventory of equipment; approving the payment vendor medical billings for patient care; maintaining check book balances and summarizes expenitures for locally held funds.”

    Requires this:

    “completion of two years college and completion of an approved training course”


    “performs highly responsible administrative work of a confidential and complex nature.”

    Requires this:

    “completion of four years of college, preferably with courses in public or business administration and one year professional experience”

    Is this:

    “Office Clerk”

    worth over $38k plus benefits?

  109. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:04 pm:


    The BLS report also contains this caveat…

    Comparing private and public sector data
    Compensation cost levels in state and local government should not be directly compared with levels in
    private industry. Differences between these sectors stem from factors such as variation in work activities
    and occupational structures. Manufacturing and sales, for example, make up a large part of private
    industry work activities but are rare in state and local government. Professional and administrative
    support occupations (including teachers) account for two-thirds of the state and local government
    workforce, compared with one-half of private industry.

  110. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:05 pm:

    1) Should current state employees be forced to contribute more to the pension fund?
    **NO–The General Assembly should meet it’s funding obligation before attempting to negotiate a higher employee contribution.**

    2) Should retirement ages be raised for current state employees?
    **YES–In response to the State fully paying it’s share into the system, it seems fair for the employees to make concessions on both salary (short term) and retirement age (long term). It would be great to see some adults in the room steering us toward some common sense give and take.**

  111. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:10 pm:

    Reducing benefits is demoralizing to hardworking and already underpaid teachers! Lets encourage our teachers by showing them we care about them and the hardwork and service they provide!

  112. - Ahoy - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:15 pm:

    I don’t think the State has any choice but to raise the retirement age. We simply can’t afford to doll out platinum pension payments. Why should taxpayers have to work until their 67 so public employees can retire at 55? That doesn’t seem very fair to me. Working longer might not seem fair to current employees, but my dad taught me a long time ago, life isn’t always fair and sometimes you have to deal with reality.

  113. - One of the 35 - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:15 pm:

    My understanding is that Madigan and Emanuel have agreed not to fight the fight to reduce benefits but instead will move toward increasing employee contrbutions. SB105 may be the vehicle. While Cullerton still has reservations about increased contrbutions being equal to a reduction in benefits, he is likely to allow the bill to be called after May 24. Downstate police and fire pensions are not included in the above.

  114. - Double Dipping contracts. - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:27 pm:

    I went on the SJR website Illinois employee database. I click on contract employees. The state spends over $38 million a year for contracts that retirees receive for not good reason–double dipping patronage and corruption for retired employees on pension. In 10 years the State could save $380 million by outlawing double dipping contracts. The amounts of money these corrupt individuals on pension receive will shock you. Why do so many live out of state supposedly doing Illinois work?

  115. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:32 pm:

    Anon @1:04 pm:

    Yes, I know. But that changes nothing since I believe that while the public service employee may indeed make less, the reason often given is that it is because they are more highly educated than the private sector worker.

    The point I have been arguing with my distinguished adversary PublicServant (and which I concede would be interesting and perhaps necessary in=depth study) is:

    • Higher education (compared to the private sector) is not usually a necessary requirement of the job.

    • These requirements are self-inflating because there is no really downward pressure since there is no competition to government.

    • Government is influenced by the union/politician conflict of interest which, because of large amounts of money, influences elections (someone above said that union members make up a small percentage of the electorate, I counter that unions make up a majority of contribution to Democrats in this state).

    • It really doesn’t matter anyway because public sector employees CHOOSE to work in government based on whatever incentives those individuals use to make their decision.

    So public sector employees make more, as stated in the BLS study, or less as stated in the Wisconsin study (mitigated by the fact the often quoted increased education requirements which may be a fallacy), it doesn’t matter since the employees have chosen to work for the government.

    I believe that the contract should be honored. I also believe the current system should not (because of fairness to taxpayers) nor cannot (because of financial considerations) be maintained. The constitutional argument doesn’t hold water since it is being said that the pension provision is somehow more weighty than the one for a balanced budget.

    I think the single area of agreement among all of the posters here is that the GA has failed miserably. I propose that the Army Corps of Engineers divert the flooding Mississippi to Springfield the next time they are in session and wash all of these legislators away.

    We should start from scratch…

  116. - lincoln's beard - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:37 pm:

    Darth Vader: “I am altering the deal. Pray that I do not alter it any further.”

  117. - Reediculous - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 1:48 pm:

    Looking at the specific positions you mentioned as far as overeducation, I can understand some of your point, but I think said point misses the mark. Does an elementary school teacher NEED to have a masters degree? No. Would a Masters be beneficial? Well, do you think that another couple years (at least) of specialized training in whatever it is you do for a living would help you to do your job better? If you don’t, then your job must be more limited and mundane then any of those you listed.
    You can argue forever about whether a certain job ‘justifies’ the need to a higher level of education, but it would be foolish to say that having more education is worthless for any given job. I may be a burger flipper with a PhD, but I can guarantee you that I am a better burger flipper, with more creativity and the ability to do more within my limited role, then a burger flipper with only a high school diploma. So am I worth more? You tell me: are employees with better, broader, deeper skillsets more valuable then those without?

  118. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:04 pm:

    Reediculous said,

    “Does an elementary school teacher NEED to have a masters degree? No. Would a Masters be beneficial?”

    I hear you, but the question is not if the degree would be beneficial, of course it is But is it worth the extra money that goes with it (cost benefit analysis), and is that extra education then usable when people justify the additional education public sector employes have as reason they are underpaid.

    “I may be a burger flipper with a PhD.”

    I am not making light of your analysis here, but it is not necessarily true that the PhD would make a better burger flipper. As a matter of fact, most PhD’s that I know couldn’t flip a buyer without getting grease on their pocket protectors! Increased education (and any such requirements written into a job posting) need to pass through at least the some of the same rigorous processes that the private sector uses. There are little or no ramifications when government busts its budget, no fear of shareholders or bankruptcy.

    Employees with a broader set of skills are way more valuable. But is there a cost benefit of having this increased skillset? Is more being done with less? Are overall costs lower? Indeed, we are seeing people here say that because they have the increased education, they are being paid too little when compared to their private sector counterparts. Indeed some are making the case that the additional education is required. I say these arguments are built upon faulty assumptions, and are quite possibly a self-fulfilling a house of cards.

  119. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:12 pm:

    We have truly come full circle on this blog when the same folks have gone from arguing that “State workers are over-paid” to “state workers are over-qualified” in the same thread.

    @Cincy - the balanced budget provision and the pension and contracts clauses are not in conflict. The only conflict is that state lawmakers refuse to close tax loopholes for corporations ($1.6 billion), tax services as surrounding states do ($4 - $8 billion), tax retirement income ($1 billion), or enact other sensible changes.

    One, which I’ve suggested and which would be relatively painless, would be to replace the current Steady Ramp-Up to close the pension deficit with a cyclical ramp-up that holds pension payments steady when state revenues are flat or declining and the overpays into the pension system when state tax revenues rebound.

  120. - Responsa - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:30 pm:

    ==You tell me: are employees with better, broader, deeper skillsets more valuable then those without?==

    This is a great point and BOTH Cincy and Reed are right. If I understand correctly, Cincy is saying that credential requirements should be reasonable for the job title but that upfront pay should not reflect a bonus kick for possibly overstated or unneeded credentials– although any extra education and experience should be welcomed. Reed, I think, is positing that over time those with masters and higher will almost always do better work, have greater intellectual flexibility, and would reflect their additional education and skill set value quite obviously in their work product and performance. Financially, at that point, they should be rewarded accordingly.

    In a sane system, therefore, those with the higher skill sets would be rewarded by their actual performance and results compared against their peers’ actual performance, not by the fact they merely possess an extra degree, or because of archaic seniority rules, etc. The high performers within a job title would consistently receive higher salaries, for longer, based on actual merit– and the lesser performers would be paid at a level reflecting their real contribution, or gradually shaken out of the system.

    It seems so simple. Why isn’t it?

  121. - AJ - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:36 pm:

    Admittedly, Illinois needs financial aid, but I would sooner see the pension/stipends of “career” legislators, congress, and senators eliminated that a cut to many who have been promised and are depending on this financial future for 20-30 or more years.

  122. - Pat Robertson - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:37 pm:

    ==The high performers within a job title would consistently receive higher salaries, for longer, based on actual merit– and the lesser performers would be paid at a level reflecting their real contribution, or gradually shaken out of the system.
    It seems so simple. Why isn’t it?==

    Because the term “merit comp” has been co-opted by an administration that has shown it has no interest in or talent for actually managing the affairs of the state, so that it is now a synonym for “whipping boys.”

  123. - Reality is - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:40 pm:

    The over qualification argument seems pointless when comparing salaries because there are likely the same percentage of overqualified staff in private industry as there are in public service.

  124. - Tired of ignorance - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:43 pm:

    Teacher have to work 35 years on the old system and pay 10% of their pay for their retirement. The state BORROWED against the TRS in the 80’s and 90’s POSTPONED payments for the money they borrowed, and now owes billions in back payments and interest owed. The media paints a picture of greedy teachers; they need to get their facts correct.

  125. - wordonthestreet - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:51 pm:

    We’re getting a long way from the original questions here, but this argument about government salaries has always been tainted by location/cost of living. Leaving teachers out for a moment (I know nothing about teachers’ salaries except that they have a job critical to our future and are surely underpaid), consider this: The state pay scales do not take into account the cost of living in different areas of our state; thus
    For someone without a college degree, a $40,000 a year state job:
    1) in Springfield/Central Illinois is a pretty decent job
    2) in Southern Illinois is a great job.
    3) in Chicago is a modest job.
    Thirty years ago, state jobs paid poorly, but the promised benefits and security made the short-term sacrifice worth it for many of us. State jobs no longer pay poorly; hence we no longer need great benefits to attract and keep qualified workers. Ask them to contribute more to their pensions and see how many quit to go work in the private sector.

  126. - anon one - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:53 pm:

    I agree with tired of ignorance…the media thinks its the teachers who messed up the system when our government abused their position. Teachers do NOT receive social security from our 35 years of working. When will the public/media go after the legislators who can earn a full pension after less then 15 years of service for a part-time job?

  127. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:55 pm:

    i think the ST gets it right when it says “somethings got to give”. Lots of good points on here.

    There’s a lot said for being right, but I remember the old film we saw in driver’s ed with the state trooper looking down at the scene of an accident and saying, “he was right-dead right”. I’m a pragmatist, looking for a solution that works.

    So, could we all agree that of future raises state employees get over the next 4 years, all will contribute an additional 25% of each raise to the pensions? Employee will still get 75% of the raises they would have otherwise gotten, and by the end of the 4 years, will be contributing substantial additional funds to the pensions (based on past raises perhaps 2 or 2 1/2%, and if merit comp get no increases they will be making no additional contributions). This isn’t painless, and certainly isn’t “fair”, but maybe it’s not too bad a deal, huh?

    And, while we’re at it, why don’t we retirees agree that 33% of our col increases go to retiree health care funding for the next 3 or 4 years. Again, it wouldn’t be absolutely painless to us, but it should be tolerable, and we would be then making substantial contributions to our health care costs, and it would be means based.

    Again, don’t tell me this isn’t right. I already accept that. Let’s try to help find a solution.

  128. - LevivotedforJudy - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 2:56 pm:

    If state workers pay more into it the pension system, what is to prevent their payments from still being spent on other things. That’s the problem. I also think that we do live longer and the retirement age can be raised.

  129. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 3:07 pm:

    Steve, your still brilliant!

  130. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 3:10 pm:

    As to retirement age, let’s start in say 5 years and raise it one year per year for 5 years–”rule of 90″, or even for 10 years. Again, ain’t perfect, but it would help the overall problem, and would move some number of additional long time employees out the door before their additional year came due, and they would be replaced by employees in the new pension system.

    Again, this is meatball surgery, but I’m not sure some finely tuned solution is going to be arrived at. Remember what the ST is saying here: there are certainly worse outcomes that could come to pass.

  131. - wordonthestreet - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 3:11 pm:

    Can’t say that I often agree with Schnorf, but when he makes sense…
    Being a pragmatist, on this occasion, I really must.

  132. - -Honor the Contract - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 3:13 pm:

    When we “bought” into 2.2 and paid thousands of dollars to do so, in essence, the state entered into a contract with us allowing us to retire at age 55. If that gets rescinded, after they have had our money all these years, isn’t that a violation of the agreement set forth in the legislation that allowed us to “buy in?” We have paid into a system in good faith with the retirement terms in place as they are, and the state has accepted our payments. That too is a contract that cannot be broken. The state just got a huge boost from the state income tax increase. We are the victims of the spending abuses of previous legislative decisions, and they want to dump the problem back on the teachers. All I expect is to receive what I signed up for, and what the state pension laws promised the 30+ years I have paid into them. Don’t set the guidelines and then after 30+ years change them. If I knew 30 years ago the retirement terms could be different, maybe I would have changed careers earlier in my life and made private sector money instead of the significantly lower teacher wages the first third of my career.

  133. - Bemused - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 3:21 pm:

    I did not do poll as I feel we can not know what is needed until we know if in fact what is owed will be paid. I and my wife have no conection to the state. Since I live here I do feel I have a dog in the fight.

    To my mind a pension benefit is but a part of an overall compensation package. You can say part of that benefit is paid by employer contributions. I feel it is part of overall wage package employer gets to pay pretax and gets some advantage from.

    Here is what I am getting at. If you are promised a certain wage I do not think law allows you not to be paid in full. Why in the heck is there not already a lawsuit by the employees against the state for their full pay? After you get past that there should be some way for the administrator of the plan to tinker with future benefits as conditions warrent.

  134. - lincolnlover - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 3:47 pm:

    Cinci - I think you are trying to say the equivalent of “why does a person need a bachelors degree to be a manager at McDonald’s”? If so, you need to look at the jobs that are open on the CMS website. Some may be as you say, but, most require specific degrees and/or education levels.

  135. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:01 pm:

    @Schnorf -

    Economically, it makes more sense for the state to give a 3% raise and increase state payments into the pension system than it does to give employees a 4% raise and ask them to pay more.

  136. - Lucky than Good - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:13 pm:

    I voted to increase contributions and to not reduce the age. I voted this way for several reasons:

    1. My and others legal analysis has shown that increased contributions will survive an Illinois Supreme Court challenge as long as it doesn’t take effect until after this contract expires in 2012. Lowered age would most likely fail.

    2. The GA can’t be trusted to contribute it’s share so we might as well contribute more ourselves just to make sure the system stays afloat long enough for the 2nd tier to make the system self sustaining. When it starts getting overfunded, we can reduce it back down.

    3. The other options suck more.

    So, in sum, temporarily raising contributions is practical, placates

  137. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:15 pm:

    Dog, you are making entirely too much sense. I’m only looking for doable, not necessarily logical, and the way I’m suggesting makes it appear that employees are contributing more, tho we all know about total compensation trade-offs.

  138. - lincolnlover - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:15 pm:

    I don’t think increasing the contribution is illegal. Many moons ago, AFSCME members paid nothing towards their pension. Then, we agreed to start paying 4% and we got a 4% raise to offset the contribution. Why can’t they do that again? We went without raises for close to 3 years that time - agreed to the 4% contribution and got a one time check of $500 (no matter how much you made).
    Raising the retirement age should be a no-brainer. We live longer, healthier lives so we should be able to work longer. At least match social security requirements.

  139. - Teacher - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:19 pm:

    I voted NO and NO because I am a school teacher and I need the extra money to buy supplies for my classroom! On average, a school teacher spends over $500 a year of their own money on school supplies for their students. I know I do, (just ask my husband)!

  140. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:22 pm:

    Steve, I appreciate your pragmatic approach to the problem, and I might be amenable to that sort of give and take as long as the state made their payment into the pension. If the state didn’t, the increased col and 25% of the raise would revert to retirees and employees respectively. The state either cuts, or increases revenues in order to accomplish that, but that way everyone feels the pain, not just the retirees and employees, who had no hand in creating the current situation.

  141. - Coach P - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:23 pm:

    Have people forgotten the Fed.Gov. used our tax $$$ to bail out Wall St.? Who then used our tax $$ to hand out huge bonuses! Don’t forget about the tax exemptions for “Big Oil”! Exxon did not pay Uncle Sam income tax 2009! They profited $45 billion!! Who’s at fault? Teachers or Politicians! It all goes back to the politicians. Who is leading the charge to reduce pensions of teachers? The G.O.P. Hmmmmm? I know this is not the states…however it is the same political games.

  142. - Ahoy - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:47 pm:

    Looking at the poll results, I”m guessing a lot of state employees have voted on this issue.

  143. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:47 pm:


    your history is incorrect. I paid 4% every year from the early 70’s until the State offered to pay the 4% for SERS employees INSTEAD of giving us an annual 4% raise that was scheduled. A few years later a different gov reneged on that deal and required state employees to start paying again. the union people got a 4% raise to offset that (in other words, they were made “whole”) .. us Merit Comp types didn’t get anything but the short end of the stick.

  144. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 5:00 pm:

    double dipping contracts,

    I object to your description. In 10 years of retirement, I have gone back once under contract to redo some unique programming code that I originally wrote because the State wouldn’t spend the at that time (25 years ago) half million purchase cost and 50K annual maintenance cost for commercial software. I designed the code to be very modular in nature and about 90% of anything that would ever need to be changed was placed in external tables anyone could maintain. But they needed changes to the core logic. Could someone else have rewrote it? Yes, but probably at double or triple the cost because they would have had to learn the code first. I also did the job for 1/2 the estimated cost (their estimate, not mine) and left half the contracted money sitting on the table. Could I have just shown up every day and clocked hours to get the rest of it? Probably, but that’s not me; not every one of us is a crook.

  145. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 5:03 pm:

    @Schnorf -

    In that case, let’s give state employees a 10% raise and require half the raise go into the pension system.

    We’ll have that old pension system fully funded in NO TIME!


  146. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 5:12 pm:

    I just want to say that it is a long-proven fact that labor negotiations held through the media are doomed to fail.

    If its the goal of the Sun-Times and Tribune editorial boards to get public employees to agree to some sort of compromise either at the state level or in Chicago, here’s what they should say:

    1. The fact our pensions are underfunded is NOT the fault of union leaders, public workers, or that pensions are too generous.

    2. The reason our pensions are underfunded is that for years, politicians failed to make the required contributions to keep the system funded.

    3. That said, union members are also taxpayers and citizens, and we all have a shared interest in finding a solution that restores solvency to the system.

    4. That solution will likely require compromises from state workers and the businesses and families that rely on them to keep our roads safe, protect seniors and children from abuse, promote economic development, and serve other vital functions.

  147. - foster brooks - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 5:25 pm:

    Here we go the sun times has joined the tribune in being the civic federations lap dog. Who else is going to join the devide and concur campaign and the race to the bottom?

  148. - Roadiepig - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:10 pm:

    After reading almost 150 comments (not counting mine from 10 hours ago) it becomes obvious that my fellow state employees understand that something has to change to shore up the system but blaming us is really getting old. A few things are pretty certain- the state can’t keep stealing our contributions and skipping their portion. If the voices who want to change things for the union employees do anything before the current contract expires they will surely lose in court. If the stock market and other investments continue to improve the losses from the last few years will be recouped. Over time the new employees will shore up the system with their higher contributions but lower retirement benefits for their retirees, but they will become resentful of the inequities of the two tier system and will fight to get what older employees already have. The constitution will be the deciding factor once it goes to the courts and we will have another shortfall to make up from skipped pension payments while the lawsuits progress. And many long-term state employees (like myself) will retire before we planned on to beat the end of the contract and possible drastic changes before they happen.

  149. - So of 70 - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:24 pm:

    Did the State Employees or the Legislature cause the pension deficit? Convince me the employees caused it and I’ll go for the proposals but not until…

  150. - pap - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 7:17 am:

    I voted no and no. As a teacher I am already one of the lowest paid state employee who pays the most towards my retirement(9.4%). I started teaching in my 40’s after raising my kids. I have to think of my future. I paid in to SS for all my previous teaching years and do not know if I can even get that. What will I live on if my retirement is lowered?

  151. - SeriouslyHoffman - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 8:16 am:

    Teachers have paid 9.4% for years without the state supporting the system they helped put in place. Maybe it is time to ask for a return on the money they borrowed and have neglected to pay back.

    Also, seriousy Cincy, you’d rather have teachers with less education rather than ponying up an additional 5% to their salary? Seriously? Most public employees make 5-7% less than a private employee with a similar education. So, I suppose those that receive their CPA do not need to do so in order to do their job effectively? If that is the case, why are they making the wages they do? Yes, their the private sector, I get that, but then why the tax breaks? Brutal!

  152. - Blanca Vargas - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 9:20 am:

    We worked very hard for it! It is not fair.

  153. - No Fool - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 11:01 am:

    Voted no to both. I pay into IMRF. I have no control over how that money is invested or matched. I also have savings for my retirement. With my saving I can control where it is invested. If I lose my money in the stock market I have no one to blame but myself, but if a politican decides they want to take my money and spend it on something else why then should I give them more for them to do it again. Fool me once shame on me fool me twice shame on me.

  154. - IL - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:46 pm:

    As a taxpayer, are we able to spend more than our salaries, borrow money to pay for this, borrow more money to pay for those charges, continue to live the high life, and then go to our employers and expect them to pay us more?
    State employees have paid their part. The State must follow the law and stop trying to screw the hardworking people of IL.

  155. - get real - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 2:27 pm:

    State employees were offered a deal when they were hired. The state has to honor it’s promises. If the deal needs to be changed, it needs to be changed going forward with new hires, not to those already in the system.

  156. - good grief - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 2:34 pm:

    Most teachers already contribute 9% to their pensions and most made additional contributions 5-10 thousand dollars each when a large group of teacher took early retirement about 15 years ago. So now the state of Illinois wants teachers to pay more to cover their irresponsible spending.

  157. - Sidney Vicious - Monday, May 2, 11 @ 11:51 am:

    The State of Illinois has not contributed to either TRS or SURS systems as required. The pensions most of the teachers are getting is off of their contributions not the states since they have not made their payments due to a pension holiday. Most teachers contribute in excess than the social security required amount already but the state if switching to social security would be forced to make their employer contribution. Bring in the best and brightest to teach pay them little, cut their pensions and make them work to 68 that’s the way to improve our educational system…

  158. - Nurse Teacher - Monday, May 2, 11 @ 8:48 pm:

    NO on both counts! We need some perks to attract Nurses to go into teaching. Nurses can make way more money in the private sector than they do teaching in a community college. Also, the yahoos in Springfield need to learn some ethics and do the right thing for a change. Pay your bills and follow the constitution.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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