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Question of the day

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* First, click here and take another look at House Speaker Michael Madigan’s letter to the AFL-CIO about declining to attend the pension reform summit and labor’s response.

* Then, check out the media coverage…

* Madigan letter to unions: Drop dead

* Madigan: Too late for union summit on pensions

* Madigan scolds unions for ‘no cooperation’ on pensions, state’s fiscal plight

* Madigan: ‘No cooperation’ from unions on pensions

* Madigan brushes off labor group’s call for a summit on pensions

* Madigan says ‘no’ to union pension summit

* The Question: Should public employee unions be more willing to negotiate a pension reform deal that doesn’t involve higher taxes and does involve benefit cuts? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

survey software


  1. - estubborn - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:09 am:

    Pension reform needs GOP support. Unions should be more reasonable in their negotiations to ensure a final bill protects their members. Their oppose every proposal approach only ensures Republicans will have more sway on the final outcome than themselves.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:10 am:

    I voted “Yes” and here is the reason why;

    Negotiate in complete good faith, be willing to bend, then, if you feel it still is not acceptable, sue on its Constituionality, which is what is going to happen anyway, but at least the impression is that the Unions are willing to work.

    Can’t be all negative, and expect to move the ball, or to denfend the end zone. Pick a lane, be engaged as MJM is asking and get off the dime.

    At least LOOK engaged, the “summit” looks no better than when we complain about “panels”, even if they are “Blue Ribbon”

  3. - Ahoy! - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:11 am:

    I voted yes, although I think long term the State needs to look at tax reform for increased revenue (we still have a 20th Century sales tax). Unions need to help solve the pension issue, it’s the largest drain on State government right now and while they shouldn’t have their members give up anything already earned, future benefits should not be considered a right from god. Additionally, I don’t believe it would be over the top to ask for a salary freeze for the next 3 years, but not sure we actually need to decrease salaries as long as the State has the flexibility (and the management) to be allowed to bring on new positions at a lower pay. With the retirements coming down the pipe, the state needs flexibility to manage its payroll and offer new higher at the same position lowers pay.

    I realize that’s not going to fly with AFSME, but this is how private business and local governments have been managing their budgets for a long time. I also think TIER 2 is such a bad deal, to be fair to new employees, they should be given the option of a 401K or hybrid pension/401K.

  4. - QC Democrat - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:14 am:

    In a time of tough and brutal fiscal conditions, no interest group is beyond sacrifice. The time has come for the public sector unions to put more skin in the game — or risk an financial explosion. Everyone needs to sacrifice. But the state also needs to stop the games played by the higher-end employees who skyrocket pensions by boosting salaries in the final months of state service.

  5. - geronimo - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:16 am:

    The fact that the pension money was “diverted” over the years to pay for programs that were unaffordable (without asking for a tax increase) shows that Illinois has had a tax revenue problem for decades. It’s the tax structure that created the mess and will continue to create problems until it comes into the 21 century, like the other 43 states have figured out. Why is a graduated tax system good for 43 other states that are functioning better than ours yet our legislators refuse to consider it? I think everyone knows the answer to that.

  6. - Sinclair's ghost - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:16 am:

    No. This is a problem created by the state skimping on their payments and borrowing from the funds. A progressive income tax and an end to loopholes are the way to fix this crisis; not cutting the benefits of hard-working state employees.

  7. - SO IL M - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:17 am:

    Yes. And I am a State Retiree. The time has come to realise that in order to keep the system viable that this has to be done. Do I like it? Nope not a bit. But to me, it is better to work for a solution that keeps SERS going than the alternative of having even worse cuts forced upon current and future retirees or the system going broke. Higher taxes is not the answer.
    And by the way, dont forget that nothing needs GOP support now.

  8. - Empty Chair - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:19 am:

    It’s absurd that the AFSCME thinks that the public has an appetite for a tax increase. Indeed, it’s commonly believed now that AFSCME has not been negotiating in good faith - asking for absurd demands, including the tax increase - in both their contract negotiations and the pension reform discussions, so as to preserve the status quo for their current members for as long as they possibly can.

  9. - Mouthy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:22 am:

    No. Why should the unions negotiate with themselves?
    Every time I see “skin in the game” comments it usually means stick it to the retirees so the state can steal the money to buy votes from people that haven’t put any money into anything.

  10. - TheDopeFromHope - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:24 am:

    The greed and rapaciousness of our public sector unions have got to stop. They have absolutely no regard for the future of our state or the futures of our children and their children. It’s time to move from a defined benefit system to a defined contribution one. Otherwise, we’re doomed.

  11. - highspeed - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:25 am:

    Unions made concessions, and employees paid more.The state still failed to pay their portion, so why is it the unions should have to give up anything?

  12. - bourbonrich - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:28 am:

    Geronimo explains the issue without casting blame. There was no stealing of the money, in fact I’m guessing that many state employees got hired due to the diversion of funds. It would be nice to have additional revenue as part of the solution but even with that, the current system needs to be reformed.

  13. - Re-elect No One - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:29 am:

    I voted NO. It should be a combination of the 2. State Employees are willing to bend but not take all the punishment. They are taxpayers too. Both sides need to bend. Neither side is willing to negotiate. Management has also been unwilling to bend along with AFSCME. They want the State Employees to take all the cuts to make it work. That is an unreasonable demand. No one person can give that much.

  14. - Small Town Liberal - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:33 am:

    - The state still failed to pay their portion -

    Governor Quinn has paid the state’s portion since taking office.

    There’s no appetite in the public or the GA for a tax increase, and no way we can keep up with the payments as currently scheduled. If the unions want to minimize the pain, they really need to propose solutions that have a chance of getting passed.

  15. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:34 am:

    No. Negotiate, yes, and the key to any solution will be on the revenue side. However, the taxpayers benefited for years from lower taxes related to underfunding. If the money had actually been borrowed using bonds, we would not tell the bond holders they needed to negotiate for lower bond payments. This is the same situation; the folks in the retirement system are the bond holders.

    Madigan wrote, “The residents of Illinois have been asked to shoulder a higher tax burden in recent years.” In recent years, yes, but in the longer term, the opposite has been the case.

    If this were money borrowed from Wall Street, I think the path forward would be more clear. Why should we treat our employees and neighbors who worked and payed into the system in good faith with less respect than bond holders who choose to take a risk.

  16. - estubborn - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:35 am:

    Thanks for introducing me to “rapacious” dopefromhope. I can’t wait to use that in a sentence today.

  17. - OneMan - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:37 am:

    Sounds bad because it is, but as a taxpayer I would rather see a solution that does not raise my income taxes again…

    I do however get why the unions don’t want to go there.

  18. - Downstater - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:37 am:

    Yes. The state is broke. Unions demanded and got benefits that were unrealistic and then looked the other way, when the politicians spent money and took money from their funds. The union folks continued to financially support and vote for the same politicians making unrealistic promises and stealing their pensions. Dumb!

  19. - BCross - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    I voted yes because I always believe that it’s always better to be part of the discussion and [hopefully] have some influence on the final decision. Having said that “negotiation” implies that both parties are willing to give something to get something. What can the State offer? A promise that future pension costs will be paid? That’s worked out well so far. The current administration won’t even honor contracts that they negotiated and signed. At the present time it’s difficult to see how there is any “good faith” in this discussion.

  20. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:44 am:

    A few questions that will loom large-
    1. Will the unions be more motivated to bargain on items that may be more constitutionally allowable (health care premiums) or constitutionally protected items like COLA that might be won back in a court case?
    2. Can the unions legally bargain away benefits for the already retired, non union members, etc.?

  21. - Kevin Highland - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:45 am:

    No one would agree to a modification in their mortgage leaving them with less house or a bigger mortgage because the bank was a bad custodian of money. Why should the pension fund members agree to modifications to their benefits because the state was a bad custodian of the money?

  22. - lincolnlover - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:48 am:

    Unions demanded and got benefits that were unrealistic…..
    You make it sound like Unions can just tell the state what they want and get it. Did you forget that the other side had to agree to those demands? If they were unrealistic, why were they agreed to? Politicians don’t really care about reality.

  23. - Lil Squeezy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:53 am:

    I voted no. Constitutional rights are non-negotiable. You should, however, negotiate what you believe is constitutional.

    Legislators do not labor sign off, just like they don’t need the Catholic churches sign off on issues they believe to be unconstitutional. I understand its a tough job that many of your constituents think is a part time perk, but its a tough job. And if you can’t get enough votes, try compromising on a proposal with lessor impact.

  24. - bourbonrich - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:55 am:

    If there is not a negotiation, what is the most likely program for the State to cut? Does moving the teacher pension payments to schools solve much of this issue?

  25. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:59 am:

    Yes, but acknowledge it’s not the employees, union or otherwise, that created this mess. We need to re-think all the tax codes in this state, starting with a progressive income tax. And it ought to be illegal to use pension money for anything other than funding pensions.

  26. - Judgment Day - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:59 am:

    Yes. But the question really is that can the unions recognize the depth of the strategic change that just occurred? And can they adjust accordingly? And how long will the adjustments take?

    It strikes me that Todd V. and Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) took an approach with concealed carry that the folks at AFSCME might want to follow. Specifically regarding: Todd V.’s comments about “the art of the possible” in working the legislative process. Also, his willingness to meet and talk with other interested, opposing parties over concerns (outside of holding these grandiose, staged events).

    Course, it always helps if you hold the high ground (from a Battlefield point of view). And right now, AFSCME does not.

  27. - Steve Bartin - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:59 am:

    Yes, because if they don’t: it’s possible one day there will be no more money in the pension funds without reform. Just a reminder.

  28. - iThink - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:59 am:

    I voted no, not because I don’t see a benefit cut coming, but because the tax structure of the state is relic of the past. If we adopted the tax structure of a Iowa or Indiana, we would be in much better shape. But, for all their posturing about the tax increase two years ago, the big money civic groups in Chicago know a fairer, graduated income tax like the surrounding states would effect them the most - and they really run the state.

    On a side note, I don’t understand why the state cannot honor folks for work done and benefits earned, and just change the benefit structure moving forward. E.G. - You have been in TRS for 10 years? Great you get 22% of your final 4 year average upon retirement with the existing COLA. From here on out, you get a reduced benefit for the coming years or a match in a 401 type account.

  29. - Endangered Moderate Species - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:01 am:

    Yes - right, wrong or indifferent- If this becomes an issue of higher taxes vs. public employee benefits, the public employees lose the battle of public perception. They need to show they are willing to work for new answers regardless of past actions. The courts are their best hope to protect what, they believe, they have earned.

  30. - law abiding citizen - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:03 am:

    No. I took a job with the state in big part because of my pension. I accepted a lower salary and now the state wants to attack both my salary and my pension. I don’t like how the state feels it can stream roll its way out of agreements. I think the union is willing to make reasonable concessions but the state wants more. What happens if the union compromises alot now and then in 10-15 years the state still isn’t able to pay the pensions without a tax hike. Do they force another cut in the pension? The bottom line is this will go to court and we will see how strong the protections of our Constitution really are. Then we will face a bigger tax liability than if they just raised the revenues they need now.

  31. - Meaningless - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:13 am:

    I voted no, but not because I don’t think there shouldn’t be involvement by the unions in the solution. What kind of “negotiations” would it be if certain things (tax revenue) was taken off the table before negotiations even started? What would the unions be negotiating … How deep is the knife going in? Why shouldn’t tax reform (both graduated income tax and sales tax on more services), reamoritized pension ramp, closing ridiculous tax loopholes, and increased contributions from current employees all be on the table? I guess it makes too much sense!

  32. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:13 am:

    I hate to be too picky, but it really isn’t “negotiations” unless both sides are willing to make concessions. I assume the leaders and the gov are willing to make some, or they would have already passed a bill and been done with it. I have to believe that the Speaker and the Senate President would rather end up with their members voting for something that union leaders have said “yes” to, albeit very reluctantly.

    I also assume the unions are willing to make some; they have already offered higher member contributions. That, of course, isn’t enough to address the problem facing us, and we and they all know that, but it is a significant concession. Can they/will they give more, and if so, what? Should retirees give anything, and if so, how?

    In negotiations with AFSCME my observation was that one of their bottom lines was no one’s pay check goes down. For example,you want higher health care contributions, it has to be less than the COLA! You don’t want the COLA to start until Jan 1, fine, the premium increase can’t start until Jan 1.

    That’s obviously a problem this year. I’m sure the Administration doesn’t want to give a COLA, probably for a couple of years. They may not even want to allow steps, I don’t know. At the same time the Administration will want significantly increased health care contribution, and needs to get them, as well as increased pension contributions. So, if the union gives more concessions they are probably going to be moving into territory where they’ve never been before.

    To those who say it isn’t fair, you’re right, it isn’t. Same thing your 13 year old said last night when you told her to finish her homework. Much of life isn’t. To those who say why negotiate, I offer this analogy . After the jury has found your client guilty of murder, the State’s Attorney doesn’t come around and offer a plea bargain for manslaughter. You negotiate and compromise when the outcome is still in doubt, and you’re trying to put a floor to your downside and minimize your opponents upside.

    If you are absolutely sure that you DESERVE to win, negotiate. If you’re absolutely sure you WILL win, don’t negotiate.

  33. - Anyone Remember? - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:15 am:

    Voted Yes. In the past, the unions have done this. “Negotiations” foundered on the unions insistence that the State of Illinois, just like private businesses and local governments belonging to IMRF, make employer pension contributions on an actuarial basis, when due. The General Assembly, collectively, refuses to give up the flexibility of making partial / no payments. And hence here we are.

  34. - Huggybunny - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:19 am:

    No, every bill so far has been unconstitutional, and put the fix for the most part in the laps of the State employees (who made all their payments into the pension funds, and who’s only mistake was choosing to work for the State of Illinois). I naively believe that when you give your word/enter into a contract that you do absolutely everything you can to honor it. If I can’t pay my bills I have to cut out excesses, and get a second job, I can’t tell my creditors, sorry, I spent the money elsewhere so I can’t pay you what we agreed to in our contract. Well, the State needs to get a second job, a graduated tax needs to be adopted, and close the huge tax breaks to big business. There are several workable ideas that have been offered that will fix the problem, and still meet the constitutionality issue. People’s lives are on hold waiting for the State to do the right thing, either do it, or pass your unconstitutional bill and let’s take it to court. I again, naively believe there is still some “integrity” left in State government in the court systems.

  35. - cassandra - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:20 am:

    If, say, the COLA is constitutionally protected for current and retired employees, why are we even talking about the public employees’ union bargaining it and similarly protected benefits away. They can’t. Why would Quinn, et al insist on making the Supremes confirm that. Because they need the confirmation for their political campaigns? The not my fault part of the campaign strategy?

    The unions, and our Democratic political leaders (remember, Republicans are irrelevant at the state level, thanks to us voters) have to find somewhere else to save money and, yes, that could be Illinois public employee salaries and health benefits. But that’s what negotiations are for. So why did Quinn terminate the contract. Wouldn’t it be better to keep talking, but about the stuff that isn’t protected by the constitution. If not, why are we paying the labor relations section of CMS. Maybe we could find some savings by laying them off.

    The unions aren’t pure here. They need to lose the idea that the cash will start flowing if they can only hit up middle class Illinoisians for more money via another income tax increase, the second in 3 years. The third, if you count the likely decision to make Quinn’s recent tax hike pernanent. Even if this bluest of states, that seems like an awfully long shot.

  36. - Sunshine - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:22 am:

    I would suggest that any solution must involve additional taxes.

    Our representatives of ‘we the people’ got us into this mess and ‘we the people’ should feel the pain to get us out. Perhaps then we’ll pay a bit closer attention….perhaps.

  37. - Tobor - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:24 am:

    The union would first have to find someone willing to negotiate in good faith. So far that has not been the case.

  38. - Ah HA - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:28 am:

    Why should a public employee agree to benefit cuts that he/she has earned or is earning. The only way this will work and not violate the Ill Constitution is for new hires–Sorry New Hires.

  39. - truthteller - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:30 am:

    If there is no additional revenue, either pension benefits will have to be cut drastically or vital programs will be slashed. Most employees in state funded plans have no social security. The only retirement security they have is their pension. Cutting their benefits on the scale being proposed would make it very difficult for them to retire

  40. - Norseman - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:38 am:

    === Yes… It strikes me that Todd V. and Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) took an approach with concealed carry that the folks at AFSCME might want to follow. ===

    What? The gun folks sued and won a court decision and are trying to ride that to a favorable legislative solution. AFSCME already knows that is an option.

    I say NO for two separate reasons. From a personal perspective AFSCME doesn’t represent me or any of the MC employees/retirees in the state. From a general policy perspective, I say NO. The leaders want a large concession that AFSCME can’t possibly support. Any partial “agreement” could be argued in any future court case as being a willingness by employees to a diminshment of their benefits and thus constitutionally acceptable.

    This issue has to be settled by the courts.

  41. - walkinfool - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:40 am:

    Negotiate if you’re willing to compromise, or offer new solutions. Don’t waste everyone’s time if you’re not.

    This process of billmaking is simply not a standard labor contract negotiation. Agreement would be better for all concerned, but is not required.

  42. - zatoichi - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:45 am:

    Better to be in the tent as part of the discussion than to be waiting outside on the decision. To be inside you need to be able to negotiate which will mean being willing to at least consider giving up/adjusting some ideal solution for you. If you are outside you better have someone on your side inside. There are no good solutions here and pointing fingers for causation sounds good but does not get to a solution when all the sides are entrenched.

  43. - Irish - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    First a comment on something the Speaker said.”It is worth noting a recent editorial points out that of the 12 most populous states, Illinois has the fourth highest average state worker pay, including overtime,…” Well yeah. When you are operating facilities with less than half of the employees you should have, the result is a lot of overtime. Overtime pay is higher pay than regular pay so yes it would appear that state employees are making more than employees in other states. He DID NOT SAY Illinois state employee regular pay is the fourth highest NOT including overtime. All this shows is that the state is having to pay more because they are operating facilities with less people necessitating overtime which is more expensive than regular pay.

    That being said I voted no. And this is why. Once again as I have said numerous times on this blog. What is the amount in dollars per year that needs to be saved to meet the target number? How much of the target number will be net by reducing the ramp. Add to that number the number for the savings in health care costs generated by the health care bill that was passed. Then take the proposal the union has made to increase the employee contribution to the pension plan. If those three things were done already I doubt the bond rating would have been dropped because it would have showed that there was some progress.

    The next thing that should be figured and I have not heard this mentioned and I believe it could represent a considerable savings. What will the savings be in the next three years when a large group of longtime state employees retire and are replaced by new hires on Tier 2 and at lower salaries? I would guess that almost half of the people in my position in my agency statewide are within three years of retirement. I know this is not a solid figure but I think they could get a good idea of what savings this will bring.

    Now put all of those savings together, BE HONEST, and publish those figures so everyone knows what more needs to be done if any. I would think that soneone could put a figure on that in a week or two.

    NOW go back to the table and have honest discussions on what else needs to be done if anything. But at least progress has been made. The bond companiues have been satisfied and there are no court proceedings in the offing. And both sides get credit for some progress.

    If this had been done 6 months ago our bond rating would not have dropped. But it seems that both sides want all or nothing without even knowing what dollar amounts are involved.

    That is why I voted no. What has been offered by the union has not been accepted, nor has a dollar figure been applied to the health care bill, and no movement on changing the ramp. The legislators set the ramp, then did not follow up by doing what was required to be able to meet the ramp. So they can change the ramp and make the payments so they meet the lower payments.

  44. - wizard - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:51 am:

    when i retired the state tried to get out of paying my ending legitimate travel expenses. i asked the union for assistance. afscme said it would not assist as i was no longer a paying union member. why should i accept them negotiating a lowering of my pension? their actions show that they do not represent me. take it to court.

  45. - Bill - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:51 am:

    No. Mike has made it pretty easy for union leaders to just give him the finger and wait for the court fight. That’s what the members seem to want anyway. Go ahead, Mike. Do your worst. Get ready for a primary in every district. You want war, you got war. We’re all ready to go down with the ship at this point.

  46. - Earnest - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:53 am:

    I voted yes from a pragmatic standpoint. It does not look like taxes will go up. It does look like benefit cuts will be made. It seems like they will be better able to guide the final result towards the best interest of their members by participating than otherwise.

  47. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:54 am:

    ==Unions demanded and got benefits that were unrealistic…==

    Do tell. The state benefits as well, employees in TRS and SURS are not in Social Security, which has saved the state a bundle of money since the state did not have to pay 6% to the Feds. Lesser benefits (such as new teachers receive) may well cost the state if the Feds decide they do not meet the threshold and contributions to SS are required.

  48. - Archimedes - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:54 am:

    I vote yes. Steve Schnorf had a very good point -you negotiate if you deserve to win, but aren’t sure you will. Legal protection of pension earned benefits is prety sure, unearned deserved (although that view varies), and all of it at least a little in doubt given Illinois’ financial condition.

  49. - Meaningless - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 11:01 am:

    What are these stats telling us? 1) Illinois taxes the poorest 20% of its residents 2.7% above the national avg.; 2) Illinois taxes its middle 60% of its residents 1.7% above the national avg.; 3) Illinois taxes its top 1% BELOW the national average.

  50. - Irish - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 11:03 am:

    Steve S. - I believe the governor has already changed the Personnell Code to eliminate steps unless you are deserving. I think that was done just before July 1 of 2012. I am no expert in lawyer speak so I could be wrong but it appears that steps will be tied to merit determined by an employees supervisor. This is a big change from the old code which I believe has been in place since collective basrgaining was allowed by Ogilvie. When I first started in ‘75 a person could get a merit step increase on top of their normal annual step increase, but the steps were locked in annually until you topped out. Now they are tied to your performance which is what our raises used to be (pre-union) and unless you were politically tied you didn’t get them. This is a loss the employees took that probably a lot don’t know about and nobody else is talking about.

  51. - Darienite - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 11:08 am:

    No, for many of the reasons previously stated.
    However to the current state workers, any thought to giving up a couple of paid holidays? Every year, you get both Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day off? Most other government agencies get one or the other. And the General Election Day every other year - huh?

  52. - sk hicks - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 11:09 am:

    I voted no, even though I believe the unions can and will find room for compromise. It’s time our elected officials recognize that signed contracts and constitutional language cannot be ignored, and should not be invalidated by after the fact deal making and arm twisting. I respect the Speaker, but disagree with his position. There are still employees who have not received negotiated raises, and the Gov. continues to try to deny paying them. How can the unions be expected to sign off on any new arrangement, when the State won’t honor provisions of enforceable contracts already on the books. Good faith has to work both ways or it just ain’t that good.

  53. - Norseman - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 11:15 am:

    === I also assume the unions are willing to make some; they have already offered higher member contributions. That, of course, isn’t enough to address the problem facing us, and we and they all know that, but it is a significant concession.===

    To me the phrase, “isn’t enough to address the problem” sums up the main obstacle to coming up with an acceptable solution for everyone. Public employees/retirees are being asked for large benefit reductions to address a problem that’s been decades in the making. A problem caused by the poor behavior on the part of the Governor and General Assembly, not the employees or retirees.

    Moderate proposals, such as that proposed by Matire or Rep. Fortner, are brushed off because they don’t provide enough savings, soon enough.

  54. - dupage dan - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 11:21 am:

    I agree w/OW’s (and others) suggestion. As a state employee I realize the reality of the situation. Yes, the unions did benefit from prior contracts. Yes, the GA/Gov shorted the system. Yes, the taxpayers have also benefitted since they got some programs without having to pay for some of it because their taxes weren’t raised.

    All of that may, or may not agreed to by others. I am not bringing them up for debate - that can go on for ever. The fact is the pension is in trouble. How much in trouble is also up for debate. That is the debate worth having since it involves decisions about the future, rather than assigning blame for past decisions. Does Illinois really need to get to 90% funding? 100% funding? What amount really needs to be in place? We need to look at the actuarial tables for that, no? Alot of baby boomers now retiring. Tier 1,2 employees maybe not putting so much into SERS, etc due to lower pay. All those variables should be assessed and a reasonable figure of sustainability can be calculated. Then we need to look at how to fund it. How much more burden do we state employees have to bear? Do we still need that heavy ramp up? Must we acquiesce to the rating agencies in toto?

    That’s what we need, IMO. Rational, logical calcualations of liability and a rational, logical plan to address the issue in a way that spreads the pain over time, to those folks who have to pay and to those who receive.

    I don’t think raising taxes again to pay for this is gonna fly. Raising taxes on ANYTHING is not gonna fly. AFSCME has GOT to GET that.

  55. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 11:26 am:

    This, from Schnorf, sounds about right:

    –If you are absolutely sure that you DESERVE to win, negotiate. If you’re absolutely sure you WILL win, don’t negotiate.–

    This, from Bill, sounds pretty interesting:

    – Go ahead, Mike. Do your worst. Get ready for a primary in every district. You want war, you got war. We’re all ready to go down with the ship at this point. –

  56. - Joe M - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 11:27 am:

    No. State employees have paid their share. On the other hand the biggest part of the problem is that the State skipped its payments into the system. By doing that the State was able to keep taxes at an artificially low 3% for us for 20 years. Even its current 5% rate is considerably lower than most of Wisconsin’s and Iowa’s progressive rates. Its also lower than Kentucky and Missouri’s top rate. Illinois had a revenue problem not an expenditure problem

  57. - Reluctant - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 11:44 am:

    I’m in AFSCME. I also worked in the private sector for a number a years when as a whole, people in my company saw their pay raises decrease due to th economy. I’m also a former merit comp employee who went for years without a raise.

    With all that being said, I think there are many AFSCME members who don’t realize how good they’ve got it.

    I don’t want to lose any ground on our pension but as far as health-care goes, everyone I know who works outside of government have seen their rates rise. AFSCME should pay more for health care, how much, I don’t know, but we’ve got to accept that the new federally manadated rules for health care is kicking up everyone’s premiums.

  58. - dupage dan - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:02 pm:

    Uh, Bill, I, for one, am not willing to go down with the ship - please don’t lump me in with the other state employees willing to follow the union leadership down the tubes. I can feel TOTALLY in the right on something but still can see good reasons for comprimising. Please speak for yourself on this one.

    Relucatant - I agree wholeheartedly. Many of my co-workers have little idea how well they have it. Indeed, many have little sympathy for the taxpayers plight - lower wages, lost jobs, retirements pushed off so far into the future you’ll be spending more $ on depends than on de planes. All they talk about is how “we already paid” - “we are entitled”. While ALL that may be true, it ignores the reality. We MUST focus on the future - how to save our pensions. Not on the past - who screwed up.

  59. - Ruby - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:19 pm:

    There will only be a negotiated pension funding agreement when there are additional tax increases and benefit cuts plus a restructuring of the pension ramp. But it should be noted that there is no pension plan currently being considered that will prevent the Illinois General Assembly from continuing to use the state pension funds as their piggy bank.

  60. - SO IL M - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:20 pm:

    Sometimes it becomes neccessary to realise you have been screwed, do what you can to minimize your losses, look at the people who stole from you, and wonder if you should do business with them again.

  61. - Illiniforlife - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:23 pm:

    No. The state will use any further union proposals to dilute the contractual argument that
    benefits cannot be reduced. The state will say that state employees and retirees agreed to these changes. A contract can always
    be amended when the parties agree to a change in the terms. Might not the courts then say that these changes are legal and destroy the constitutional argument?

    Further proposals by the union would be sabotaging the ability of employees and retirees to use the legal process to address the unconstitutionality of nearly every state proposal thusfar.

    Let us not forget that the implementation of the Tier II program was already a huge union concession. The state rarely mentions this pension change. It would behove the state, when talking about the so called “pension crisis” to remind the media, the bondhouses, etc. that the state has already made substantial moves to address the pension issue through the creation of a tiered system. When other states have created such systems, they are applauded for addressing their pension problem. Illinois should receive similar recognition.

    Illinois leaders, decisionmakers and parts of the business community refuse to recognize the legitimate concessions that the unions have already accepted (Tier II) or proposed (increasing employer contributions) and the substantial progress that has been made.

    Progress cannot be measured in a year or a single legislative session, but over time. Using this measure, Illinois has made progress in addressing the pension issue.

  62. - Meaningless - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:24 pm:

    Clarence Page, in his Tribune column yesterday, profoundly used Bob Woodson’s ideas that would help make the Republican Party more attractive on the national level. “If you believe in conservative principles … then you must explain to people why those principles will bring a better outcome than the existing liberal programs.” I’d like to apply this concept to the current situation in Illinois in the relationship between our current Democratic majority in the Illinois Legislature and the unions currently involved in the pension issue. What tangible benefits have the legislators offered to the workers and retirees regarding pensions to convince the workers that Illinois would be better if the unions bought into their ideas? I for one, am under the belief that the current legislators (especially Madigan) are molded into a top-down, obnoxious “take it or leave it” mentality that is very one-sided representing the cash-contributing business interests of profit and greed. This approach is only solidifying the walls of defense, creating anger, and continuing to seriously disrupt the lives of thousands of Illinois residents that dedicated their hearts and souls to others in their careers. At one time, the idea of “shared sacrifice” was floating around which did seem to create a more positive atmosphere until the unions realized that shared sacrifice meant only that all sorts of benefit reductions and unpopular changes (higher age for retirement, smaller retirement calculations, increased contributions, frozen and reduced COLAs to name a few)were the solution. NOTHING about ANYTHING to increase the revenue, even though many constructive suggestions have been offered by highly credible sources. Some examples of these suggestions would include reamortizing the pension unfunded liability/debt to make it like a home mortgage, moving towards a graduated income tax like 43 other stated to LOWER the tax burden for 94% of taxpayers, taxing more services like many other states are alreading doing, and closing corporate tax loopholes that are no longer necessary. Maybe these kinds of actions would help the unions buy into shared sacrifice and allow for a more positive and productive process to fix what ails Illinois.

  63. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:42 pm:

    Anyone besides me old enough to remember the black and white film they showed us in driver’s ed 50 years ago? There’s the dead guy on the ground, the crashed vehicle, and the trooper saying “he knew he had the right-of-way, and he was right-dead right”

  64. - Ret. Prof - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:44 pm:

    The union doesn’t represent retirees many of whom, were never in a union.

  65. - Tsavo - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:50 pm:

    I voted NO. If there is one thing I learned after a 29 plus year career in law enforcement is when you have a solid case never negotiate a “plea deal”.

    Let the Legislators pass whatever pension reform they want, then take them to court.

    The Constitution is very clear on this matter. DO NOT NEGOTIATE or agree to any reduction in benefits.

    Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!!!!!

  66. - Huggybunny - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:53 pm:

    Someone explain to me what “more” State employees have to lose by going to court? If they agree to all the cuts they get hit, if they don’t agree to the cuts, it goes to court and the court rules it’s constitutional, they get hit. If the court rules it’s not constitutional (I think they have at least a 50/50 chance, maybe better) they don’t get hit. I agree with Illiniforlife, agreeing to unconstitutional cuts opens the door to amending the contract. Does anyone really believe that one pension/healthcare change will be the end of it, big business won’t stop leaning on the State until every State worker is making minimum wage, with no pension, and bare minimum health care, or no health care.

  67. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:54 pm:

    - Bill -,

    If you want to Primary all of the Dems, good luck with that.

    Like with every good “night”, there is a “morning” and choosing to go after MJM full bore, without any compromise, might be what MJM wants, to make it easier to get what “needs to get done” passed.. .and with GOP support!

    - Bill -, careful playing checkers, the Speaker is playing chess.

  68. - sam m - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:55 pm:

    You pay into a fund and the state is also supposed to pay into the fund.The state doesn’t pay it’s share,so now there isn’t enough in the fund.You are told you must pay for the state’s not paying into the fund because there isn’t enough money.Isn’t there some sort of contract there?And some contract violation?

  69. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:57 pm:

    ===Let the Legislators pass whatever pension reform they want, then take them to court.===


    Just, how about looking like you are in this game and negotiate in good faith, THEN sue.

  70. - cassandra - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 12:59 pm:

    Besides, didn’t we have a chance to change the constitution recently. Wouldn’t it have been worth trying if reducing pension benefits is so critical to the state’s fiscal health. I don’t recall our Democratic leaders clamoring for a constitutional convention, though.

  71. - Norseman - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:09 pm:

    The argument that because people in the private sector are getting the shaft, I should stop complaining and accept getting the shaft doesn’t work for me. I didn’t teach my children to rollover and accept inequitable treatment.

  72. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:10 pm:

    I voted yes, the unions, particularly AFSCME, should be prepared to give on reduced pay/benefits, despite the inevitable court challenge.

    Assuming the court rules in AFSCME’s favor, that pension benefits are an ironclad contract, how does anyone think the state is likely to respond in the future? Will we keep raising taxes to fund pensions and healthcare or will we keep cutting other programs?

    Or will someone clever figure out that Illinois can hire private companies to manage prisons, or to process Medicaid applications, or to conduct drivers tests? How many functions currently staffed by AFSCME members can be privatized?

    If you want to find out the answer to that question, by all means, let’s take this to the limit. There isn’t a scenario where pension benefits stay the same that doesn’t also result in massive, permanent layoffs of AFSCME members.

    But don’t worry, most AFSCME members will probably get re-hired by the private companies at 60% of their former salary, a modest 401 (k) and an Obamacare health plan. If you want to test this theory, go out on strike and see what happens.

    Last call AFSCME. The train is leaving the station. You can help make pensions and healthcare sustainable or you can find new jobs.

  73. - dupage dan - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:12 pm:

    So, to all those who keep harping on who messed up and how they all owe - just how does that work? Are you gonna dun them for the 90 billion dollars? Or perhaps the amount they passed on during the pension holiday? Lets see, divide up the GA by how much is owed and then collect every month for…….get it!

    Since you can’t collect thru garnishing the GA, what is your plan? Raise taxes? Will. Not. Happen.

    Repeatedly stating that the GA failed to do their job and then expecting the funds to just appear thru some type of taxing magic is the pure definition of insanity. You. Are. Delusional.

  74. - Dirty Red - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:13 pm:

    cassandra, you would have called a Constitutional Convention with Blago in the Governor’s Office?

  75. - Norseman - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:20 pm:

    Willy, understood, but negotiating for appearance sake would be disingenuous - although it’s done all the time, and agreeing to anything could weaken a court case.

  76. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:21 pm:

    Steve, you have a couple years on me, but I saw the film.
    Excellent analogy.
    In these times, I’m often reminded of one of my late father’s favorite sayings: “Discretion is the better part of valor.”

  77. - Retiree - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:24 pm:

    Dupage Dan- If a judge issued a Writ of Mandamus the money would be there.

  78. - Endangered Moderate Species - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:26 pm:

    Meaningless- You make some good points but be careful overselling the “dedicated their hearts and souls to others in their careers” line. For many people in the State the only contact they have is with a State employee is at the local driver’s license office, the State highway workers or a State Police officer. They are all good occupations but I am guessing those employees have other reasons for going to work everyday.

  79. - Sgtstu - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:36 pm:

    dupage dan - “Raise taxes? Will. Not. Happen.”

    I think the courts might disagree with you. The courts know the State can raise taxes. Illinois can raise revenue and everyone knowns it. Do most people want this, no. Well too bad, the bill is due for the money the State spent that was suppose to go into the retirement systems. What is “delusional” is anyone thinking retirees are just going to agree to bend over and just take it. A good point was made that Afscme or anyone else can’t agree to give any part of my pension away. With respect to Steve, nothing left to do but go to court as I can see.

  80. - Skeeter - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 1:40 pm:

    No, they should not bother negotiating.

    Quinn and Madigan will cave.

    They always do.

    No need to give anything up.

  81. - PublicServant - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:04 pm:

    I voted no Rich. No preconditions. Everything is on the table.

  82. - dupage dan - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:11 pm:

    I have not heard a satisfactory explanation of the state’s ultimate responsibility in the pension matter. It has been suggested that the state must pay the pension - but it seems that the state is required to pay only that which is available - not necessarily the amount promised. Clarification on that would help to give all here an idea of what they can expect as the pension fund dwindles to the last few pennies.

    Just how do we interpret the constitution on the matter? Do we wait for the courts?

    Frankly, I’m not sure the courts can force the state to raise taxes. I am not an expert on that subject but it is an imporatant feature of this debate.

    In the end - those who responded to my post seem to believe that the money lies in the pockets of the taxpayers - just waiting to be plucked. A revenue problem, then. I wonder how the taxpayers will feel when the state drops so many programs and devotes such an overwhelming amount of the GRF to pay into the pension.

    Pitchforks and torches

  83. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:11 pm:

    Oswego Willy’s lessons on “negotiating in good faith” are exactly what the average Citizen hates about politics and politicians. Listening to such nonsense, it’s easy to believe that the days of our Great Administrators and Statesmen are long gone. No wonder the “honorable” in the GOP are being “targeted” to make room for this new “breed” and the new and improved GOP.

    These are not Republican values.

  84. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:20 pm:

    Since my advice is for a Union, and since no matter what seems to occur, it is going to be decided in the courts, due to the Illinois Constitution and its guarantees, my point is to come up with the best deal, negotiate in good faith, and then see if it passes muster.

    Republicans, we like things that will pass muster with the courts.

    “Honorable” also means constitutional.

    Rigid negotiations and no traction AND unconstitutional is just as bad.

    No matter what is decided, not decided, passed or not passed, its going to the courts by someone over something constitutional. the Unions might as well try to get the best deal, take it to court and see what “flies”.

    If you can’t see that as the next step, I can’t help you.

    With kindest personal regards, I remain.

    Sincerely yours,

    Oswego Willy

  85. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:26 pm:

    These aren’t letters, Willy, and the “closing” doesn’t disguise up your mens rea.

  86. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:27 pm:

    Sorry. That obviously should have been “and the closing doesn’t disguise your mens rea.”

  87. - Meaningless - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:28 pm:

    Thank you Endangered Moderate Species for reminding me that my views are slanted from my career as a teacher. I seem to remember more clearly my experience for 35 years of those 70 hour work weeks of enthusiastically teaching 5 classes everyday, perparing lesson plans, grading papers, attending workshops and conferences regularly to improve my methods, and coaching two sports for most of my career. At the same time I spent countless hours and thousands of dollars out of my own pocket to acquire two Masters Degrees to advance myself in my teaching profession. I also worked three nights a week and weekends for many years in part-time jobs to help support my family, which did help me earn my elgibility for Social Security. I now receive $108.00 a month from Social Security which would lower my TRS pension COLA if Elaine Nekritz has her way. I do recognize the importance of unions having a collective voice, such as We Are One, but I’d like to remind everyone that cares that there are major differences in the benefits that each of the different unions / retirees receive. For example, I have to pay hundreds of dollars each month for my family health insurance, while still living on a TRS retiree pension.

  88. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:37 pm:

    These aren’t letters, Willy, and the “closing” doesn’t disguise up your mens rea.

    1) If you don’t understand the “closing” too bad.

    2) If something is going to get done, my 1st post explains my thoughts. I stand by them …

    As to your snark at me …

    With kindest personal regards, I remain.

    Sincerely yours,

    Oswego Willy

  89. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:38 pm:

    I’m irritated with the 2002 ERI retirees who wisely grabbed an incentive we did not need to offer them; have been reaping the benefit for 10 years; will continue to reap the benefit for many years in the future; and then don’t even have to pay state tax on this retirement income. Irritated and a bit jealous, I might add.

  90. - wishbone - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:39 pm:

    “Repeatedly stating that the GA failed to do their job and then expecting the funds to just appear thru some type of taxing magic is the pure definition of insanity. You. Are. Delusional.”

    +1 The courts are not going to take over the taxing powers of the legislative branch. In the end both existing programs and pensions will need to share in the needed cuts. Tax increases if any will be both modest and incremental.

  91. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:42 pm:

    ===Should public employee unions be more willing to negotiate a pension reform deal that doesn’t involve higher taxes and does involve benefit cuts?===

    THAT is the question, I said yes, I said in good faith, and then I said “sue” like someone is going to anyway to see if it passes muster.

    I recommended they look engaged and pick a lane.

    Pretty straight forward, unless the question confused you with trying to figure out how to posture as a rigid, unabashed Republican, even though this is about Unions…or I have no clue why I upset you with my advice.

    You do know, politics, is going to play a role in this… right?

  92. - lincolnlover - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:43 pm:

    Meaningless - I am just curious, what premium did you pay for your health insurance while you were working?

  93. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:45 pm:

    Just one more thing Willy and then I’m done: I’m not the only one who called you out. The importance of “policing”–your statement a few days ago, right?

  94. - Bill - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:50 pm:

    It is Madigan, not the unions, who refuses to negotiate. Read the obnoxious letter again. The unions have made and are willing to make concessions in an effort to solve the problems, some of which are real and some of which are contrived. My point is only that if he won’t talk and he has the votes then he should go ahead and pass whatever he thinks he can. Please spare me the checkers and chess stuff. If he was so brilliant he would have solved this already. So he should go ahead and do what he thinks he has to do and let the chess pieces fall where they may.

  95. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:51 pm:

    If I knew what you were “policing” then I would respond….How about a bit more or an explanation?

    And why is everyone done? “One more thing, then I am done..”

    Do you think that has more weight?

  96. - Ruby - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:52 pm:

    How does one negotiate knowing these fundamental truths:

    - No matter how many benefits are cut to save the pension system it will not be enough to solve the state’s financial problems.

    - Nothing will prevent the General Assembly from continuing to take pension holidays to pay for other state programs, so there will always be demands for additional benefit cuts.

  97. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 2:58 pm:

    ===Willy, understood, but negotiating for appearance sake would be disingenuous - although it’s done all the time, and agreeing to anything could weaken a court case.===

    I said negotiate, I never said agree, and further, being engaged and at the table, the Unions will still see what other options are … before disagreeing.

    Up to the Unions, I am not part of the Unions, and however they want to go at this, go for it. Looking like they are going to watch as everyone else is engaged is not going to help.

  98. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:06 pm:

    ===Read the obnoxious letter again.===

    I have, 8 meetings was enough for the Speaker, he is going to do waht he wants, if the Unions want a seat, better hurry …

    ===he has the votes then he should go ahead and pass whatever he thinks he can. Please spare me the checkers and chess stuff.===

    I think that is what the leter is warning them, “get on board, support something, I am done yapping after 8 meetings, thanks”

    If you want to be spared the checkers and chess “bit”, then think, the Speaker talks, only when he wants to. Letters like these, are the Speaker, speaking… in his game of chess.

    ===So he should go ahead and do what he thinks he has to do and let the chess pieces fall where they may.===

    Again, the Speaker is telling you that, he is willing to, are the Unions ready? Not choosing sides, I am watching this unfold.

    If I were the Unions, I would act like the times Lee A. Daniels passed ALL that wonderful legislation, changing Illinois, that wound up to be unconstitutional. Daniels changed Illinois Law, then it got changed right back.

    In some ways, I have seen this movie before. Unless there can be something to pass muster, and is acceptable, its going to go the courts as a default, anyway, so …

  99. - Meaningless - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:07 pm:

    To lincolnlover … There was a time early in my career when as a single person the district that employed me paid most of my health insurance premium. That % that I paid of the district cost changed over the years with each negotiated contract. I never had free health care coverage. I also remember when my district was paying the employee penalty for teachers that retired without have the full-service years. The district felt they could still save money by paying the penalty but not having to pay the high salary of the veteran teacher. They could then hire a young teacher for about 1/3 of the cost. That made good sense at the time, but like the regular increases in my health insurance premiums (both % and total cost) things changed, and more and more of the cost of the benefits was placed on me.

  100. - capncrunch - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:07 pm:

    47 th Ward accurately summed up ASFCME’s predicament above. They face a lose-lose proposition. They must minimize their losses. They have suffered what the lawyers in the Hostess Cupcake bankruptcy called “Betrayal without remedy”.

  101. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:10 pm:

    100 comments and it’s not a gun thread. Mark your calendars!

  102. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:12 pm:

    - Cincinnatus -,

    Wait, this ISN’T about guns?

    Forget my posts, my mistake. Sorry.

  103. - Bill - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:18 pm:

    I think we kind of agree but 8 meetings with Henry is not negotiating with the unions. At this point there is nothing being put forward that the unions could agree to. Remember, their leadership is elected also.

  104. - Huggybunny - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:22 pm:

    The courts are not going to take over the taxing powers of the legislative branch.

    True, and those of you on here with legal expertise correct me if I’m wrong. The courts can not mandate to the State how they get the money to pay on pensions when a worker retires, but they can mandate that it be paid. Be that by raising taxes, or cutting the State workforce down to 10 people in the State, the courts don’t care, and won’t get involved in how the State comes up with the money, just that they must pay the pension when it’s due upon retirement.

  105. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:26 pm:

    ===I think we kind of agree but 8 meetings with Henry is not negotiating with the unions.===

    I can agree, and I can see the speaker saying, “enough with the panels, committees, meetings, whatever…” and this letter, while very strong in tone, is a call to action… will everyone see it that way, remains to be seen.

    I do understand the Union’s “elected” leaders dilema as well. Tough spot. Not envious. If they pick a lane, is it the right one? How far to pushm and how far to give?

  106. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:33 pm:

    ===The courts are not going to take over the taxing powers of the legislative branch.===

    Nope. Buth there is an issue to the pensions, otherwise this would be a bit easier, no “Squeezy”, better compromises …

  107. - cassandra - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:36 pm:

    Blago or not, I think another point is, maybe most folks didn’t see the need to change the constitution, at least with respect to pensions. Maybe this is a flap, not a major catastrophe. In five years, ten years, we could be squabbling over how to spend a surplus. Unlikely the plucked state retirees would get their benefits restored though, having given them up in a burst of self-sacrificing generosity. And when things get better, inflation will get higher. But the COLA will be gone.

  108. - rusty618 - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:42 pm:

    The recent tax increase and any to follow, are not being implemented to cover the the pension deficit. They are there to cover for the legislators over spending of money that was designated for other purposes. Now if the roles were reversed, and the state had paid every penny they were supposed to into the pension fund while the state employees paid nothing into it, that would be a pension deficit.

  109. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:54 pm:

    Just firing off rounds in rapid succession, Cincy. Too many targets in mind for accuracy. ;)

  110. - Responsa - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 3:56 pm:

    ==Sometimes it becomes neccessary to realise you have been screwed, do what you can to minimize your losses, look at the people who stole from you, and wonder if you should do business with them again.==

    SO IL M - I loved your comment. It is interesting advice not just for this situation but also food for thought in many life situations. That deserves to be needlepointed on pillows and wall hangings.

  111. - illinifan - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:00 pm:

    Original Rambler, I think the irritation is solely jealousy and as you say we wisely grabbed the benefit when offered…..those of us in 2002 knew it was a good deal just like the folks did when an ERI was offered in 91 when there was another budget crisis. Don’t fault us for having working as long as we did with the state and finding a chance to run, knowing we would be understaffed and overworked and not fairly compensated for years to come. As a manager I saw no raises in 82 or 83 because of a budget crisis, repeat again in the early 90’s with no raises again for management. I knew there was a third decade of no raises for me when 2002 rolled around. I didn’t realize that management would be held at their salaries for as long as they were. I feel sorry for the cohorts who had to stay because they were young or did not have enough time.

  112. - Responsa - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:00 pm:

    I also want to give kudos to 47th ward’s well written and realistic summation of the situation.

  113. - anon for a reason - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:01 pm:

    The Union leaders are elected by district council and local leaders. The system is rigged to keep those in control in control. Kinda like everything else = power to the powerful. Many Union members feel disconected from the Union. When the Union is bringing raises the members are happy. Unhappy members do not have a method to change the Union leadership. I do not think I am the only one with this thought.

  114. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:01 pm:

    I voted yes, because of the income tax increase in 2011. I am glad to see that my union offered to pay more for pensions. While I can be very vocal in criticizing anti-union positions, I also want to have a better relationship with taxpayers and see them as partners rather than adversaries in solving problems.

    From my position, it is not unreasonable to try to get the best pension reform deal, like a plan that would include flattening the pension payment ramp and new revenue ideas. What I stand against is a reform plan that doesn’t incorporate some ideas that would ease the cuts.

  115. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:04 pm:

    Forgot to ’splain my Yes vote.
    I translated Speakerspeak to read:
    The train is leaving the station. Be on it or be ready for a long, cold walk.
    #%@& you,

  116. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:07 pm:

    - Arthur Andersen -!!!

    “Yeah! What - AA - Said!”

    Oh, so you DO understand the “closing”? I guess when I am typing it I type it all wrong …my bad.

  117. - Norseman - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:09 pm:

    I don’t have a crystal ball to know how it will play out, but I do know that there has already been at least ONE case where the courts have ordered the state to make payments without an appropriation. The courts don’t have to require the imposition of taxes, they just have to require the payment of the pension expenses. All of you who are asking where the money will come from appear to think that we’re talking about the state having to come up with massive amounts of money. What absolutely has to be paid is the actual cost of benefits for that fiscal year.

    I don’t even think this will be an issue. When (my belief) the court throughs out the draconian cut desired by the powers that be, they will then be forced to consider the more reasonable approached put forward by folks like Martire and Rep. Fortner.

    One more thing, then I am done. Willy, you’re still a Grade A commenter in my book. Keep up the good work.

  118. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:14 pm:

    - Norseman -,

    We are all good. The back and forth is what its all about. Thanks…

    With Respect.

  119. - the Patriot - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:15 pm:


    Yes, forget how we got here. If the state if forced to gut services or break the union they will break the union. Look at WI. The taxpayers will only stand for so much from public sector unions while the private sector is bleading.

    No, why negotiate with democrats who have taken your money in every election and turned around and screwed you. You have to be stupid to negotiate when history tells you the people on the other side of the table can’t be trusted.

    Time for the public sector unions to negotiate with democrats that history tells them are not trustworthy, or back republicans accross the board in 2014 and hope for the best.

  120. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 4:24 pm:

    ===or back republicans accross the board in 2014 and hope for the best.===

    With respect, the House and Senate changing hands, today as i see this, at this moment, is not going to happen.

    a Republican governor, while possible, is still dicey, at best. If the ILGOP doesn’t get behind somebody, have a strong field operations, GOTV and let us not forget … the candidate … to get this done, you may not have till 2014.

    Sometimes, timing stinks, and the time … might be now.

    With Respect.

  121. - mongo - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 5:06 pm:

    I voted no…maybe it is the way the question is phrased, but I think it is pretty clear it would be unconstitutional to reduce current employee pensions.

    Happy to consider raising the employee contribution, or consider something like Kansas did and convert for new ees from defined benefit to cash balance system.

  122. - foster brooks - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 5:13 pm:

    Looking at my first paycheck i noticed i did not pay into sers, now i’m at 8.5% of my salary into sers so its not like we havent helped out in the pension systems in recent years. But if you want illinois to join others in the race to the bottom and end up like a third world state(mississippi) by all means lets get there.

  123. - Sunshine - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 5:16 pm:

    “….a former merit comp who went for years without a raise…”

    I see that as a huge red flag for union’s negotiating on behalf of merit comp employees. They, the unions, represented and got raises, on a continuous basis for their members, while merit comp employees got squat.

    So, any deal should recognize the penalty merit comp employees were subjected to and they should take less of a hit than those represented by the union members who were well compensated and helped drive this deficit.

  124. - Rusty618 - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 5:57 pm:

    foster, most new state employees do not pay into the pension system for their 6 months of employment. It is a probationary period. You can buy that service time back later to add to your total state time, but it gets more expensive the longer you wait, because of interest. I know this from first hand experience.

  125. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 6:10 pm:

    The immediacy of the crisis may not be recognized by the courts as a reason to let the state off the hook. Most of the systems have enough money coming in, and enough in reserves, to pay all benefits at their current levels for several years out. And who knows, maybe the fund managers will have a lucky year or two with their investments, as 2012 was and 2013 looks to be at this point. Allowing enough time to gear up for the fix, whatever it might be.

  126. - robert lincoln - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 6:19 pm:

    I want a pension. I don’t want to be rich. I want to retire someday. If we do nothing, there will be no pension. To wait, let something pass, fight it in court, we will still lose no matter what the outcome. That is why i voted yes.

  127. - T-ROCK - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 6:23 pm:

    Um All of you that voted yes why dont you just bend over or get on your knee’s,,,,I myself am DAMN sick n tired of sitting in the car while the state government goes in to my retirement fund, steal’s my money, walk’s away and I get charged with I Need Pension Reform . I pay with every pay check into my retirement and the more I make the more is takin out ,Oh and by the way close to $10,000.00 was takin out of my check last year . I dont need reforming , asking me to pay more into my own pension fund is like me going to Visa and asking for a $200.00 line of credit and Visa charging me 300% interest. Our government is telling us that they have maxed out what they can STEAL out of our pension fund and now want more to steal. IT’S MY PENSION WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO PAY MORE INTO MY OWN PENSION , SHOULD’NT I BE ABLE TO DECIDE IF I WANT TO PAY INTO MY OWN PENSION FUND . WHY IS OUR STATE GOVERNMENT WANTING ME TO PAY MORE INTO A FUND THAT THEY CAN STEAL OUT OF…….AGAIN IT’S MY PENSION FUND…

  128. - What is to be done? - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 6:42 pm:

    Let’s fix this before we mess with the pensions. If you receive a pension from a government job in which you did not pay Social Security taxes, some or all of your Social Security spouse’s widow’s or widower’s benefit may be offset due to receipt of that pension. This offset is referred to as the Government Pension Offset,or GPO.

  129. - T-ROCK - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 6:44 pm:

    P.S. Are’nt we still ranked #1 or #2 as the most corrupt state with 4 out of the last 9 governer’s going to prison…Oh one more thing if our pension is $100 Billion short because our state government spent it elsewhere then how does this state still wind up $16 billion in debt. You people that said yes should look up what the prison sentence is for Aiding and Abetting a Criminal cause that’s exactally what your doing…

  130. - RNUG - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 6:49 pm:

    What is to be done? @ 6:42 pm:

    Valid point. My mom who retired non-coordinated a lot of years ago, gets exactly zero from my deceased dad’s SS due to the offset rule. And she worked quite a few years for a tax prep business, had to pay SS in, and gets zero for that also.

  131. - Refinancebaloonmorgagefixedrate - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 7:21 pm:

    Ralph Martire: Another way forward on pension reform Ralph Martire 01/23/2013 10:02 PM

    There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when the recent lame-duck session in Springfield ended.

    Why? No action was taken to address the $95 billion in debt owed to the state’s five pension systems.

    This leaves the systems with just 40 percent of the funding they should have currently, which is well below the 80 percent generally deemed healthy for public systems. Good government groups and editorial boards alike lamented the Legislature’s failure to pass yet another proposal to reduce that ginormous obligation — this time by cutting almost $30 billion in benefits earned by current workers and retirees.

    But rather than being dismayed, folks should be relieved. Here’s why.

    A problem really can’t be solved unless the proposed solution addresses its true cause. And the proposal that failed to pass during the lame-duck session — like every other proposal introduced to date on this subject — focused its solution on benefit cuts and thereby failed to deal with this particular problem’s true cause.

    See, three factors have contributed to the creation of this unfunded liability. The first two are items inherent to the pension systems themselves, like benefit levels, salary increases and actuarial assumptions; and investment losses suffered during the Great Recession. But if those were the only factors creating the unfunded liability, the systems would be around 70 percent funded today, meaning no crisis.

    The vast majority of the unfunded liability is made up of the third contributing factor: debt. Indeed, for more than 40 years. the state used the pension systems like a credit card, borrowing against what it owed them to cover the cost of providing current services, which effectively allowed constituents to consume public services without having to pay the full cost thereof in taxes.

    This irresponsible fiscal practice became such a crutch that it was codified into law in 1994 (P.A. 88-0593). That act implemented such aggressive borrowing against pension contributions to fund services that it grew the unfunded liability by more than 350 percent from 1995 to 2010 — by design. Worse, the repayment schedule it created was so back-loaded that it resembles a ski slope, with payments jumping at annual rates no fiscal system could accommodate. Want proof? This year the total pension payment under the ramp is $5.1 billion — more than $3.5 billion of which is debt service. By 2045, that annual payment is scheduled to exceed $17 billion, with all growth being debt service.

    It is this unattainable, unaffordable repayment schedule that is straining the state’s fiscal system — not pension benefits and not losses from the Great Recession. And no matter how much benefits are cut, that debt service will grow at unaffordable rates. Which means decision-makers can’t solve this problem without re-amortizing the debt.

    Given that the current repayment schedule is a complete legal fiction — a creature of statute that doesn’t have any actuarial basis — making this change is relatively easy. Simply re-amortizing $85 billion of the unfunded liability into flat, annual debt payments of around $6.9 billion each through 2057 does the trick. After inflation, this new, flat, annual payment structure creates a financial obligation for the state that decreases in real terms over time, in place of the dramatically increasing structure under current law. Moreover, because some principal would be front- rather than back-loaded, this re-amortization would cost taxpayers $35 billion less than current law.

    One last thing — it actually solves the problem by dealing with its cause.

    Ralph Martire is executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a bipartisan fiscal policy think tank based in Chicago.

  132. - Anonymice - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 7:54 pm:

    I voted yes, but the bondholders and vendors should also be hauled to the table to see how much of a haircut they will take on what the state will pay them now or in the future. Fair for one is fair for the other, and legal for one is legal for the other.

  133. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 8:03 pm:

    They do come out after dark…

  134. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 8:06 pm:

    - AA -

    Was that a “yes” or a “no” or …

  135. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 8:11 pm:

    I was thinking, all that is missing is the “The Pension Debt is too (blank) High, and my ‘The Pension Debt is Too (balnk) High Party’…”

    I am sure that is just as helpful …

  136. - dupage dan - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:09 pm:

    R @ 7:21 pm,

    Sounds too logical. I understand that the rating agencies wouldn’t go for it since it doesn’t fit their established framework. I wonder if anyone in the GA or, for that matter, PQ, would go for such a scheme?

  137. - east central - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:18 pm:

    It makes little sense for the parties of any side to attempt to negotiate constitutionally and contractually protected benefits, unless politicians are hoping to transfer blame for taxes to the courts. The Constitution appears to be as clear as it could be on the subject of pensions.

    Active employees can give ground in other ways in order to make a contribution toward funding of the pension systems, possibly via wages as has been suggested by others. A complication is that it seems unfair to ask the same sacrifice of Tier I and II employees, as the latter receive much lower pension benefits. But presumably something can be worked out.

    Unless the courts end up protecting health care benefits for retirees, this will the one major cost transfer to retirees.

  138. - foster brooks - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:53 pm:

    all it takes is one person to sue so the “unions need to get on board” doesnt hold much water

  139. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 9:58 pm:

    Willy I already voted, don’t try and trick me into committing Vote Fraud in front of these sharp witnesses.
    Something is “High” around here right now for sure.

  140. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 31, 13 @ 10:10 pm:

    - AA -,

    Maybe there is a Full Moon?

    Be careful, they seem to handing out targets. Movement is the key I guess…

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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