* Matt Dietrich writes about a forum and panel discussion hosted by World Presidents’ Organization…
The big finish, though, was an impassioned, hour-long speech by former Gov. Jim Thompson. He took Biss’ plea a step further: “I agree with Sen. Biss that we have to stop demonizing public employees. Without the public employees we wouldn’t enjoy the life we do in the state of Illinois. We would not have the education of our children and grandchildren in the state of Illinois. We would not have a decent business climate in the state of Illinois without good, honest, hard-working public employees.. We have to get away from the idea that they are the enemy. They are not the enemy. We need to make them our allies.
“And I’ll add one more: We need to stop demonizing unions. You can disagree with AFSCME, you can disagree with the teachers, you can disagree with other public employee unions without demonizing unions as some who want to be governor are wont to do.” Thompson said.
The last line probably was intended for Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner, the first candidate to officially enter the 2014 gubernatorial race and who has been an outspoken critics of public employee unions.
Probably? Heh. Rauner just got schooled. Not that he’ll care or anything. He’s the, um, “outsider,” remember?
Thompson was endorsed by AFSCME in his last campaign against Adlai Stevenson.
* But Thompson does agree with Rauner and Ty Fahner that Cullerton’s hybrid pension reform bill shouldn’t be adopted…
Thompson was critical of a bill backed by Senate President John Cullerton that combines two reform bills into a single bill. “What we need to do is pass the Nekritz/Cross/Biss bill, let them take it to court. If the Supreme Court finds it unconstitutional, start over, responding to the opinion of the court. Putting the two together is just a terrible risk that you will lose the benefits of the best pension legislation.”
Thompson said combining two bills in one is an “open invitation” to the Supreme Court to find the better bill unconstitutional and leave state government with a bill that potentially could leave it in worse financial shape.
So, Thompson agrees that Cullerton’s half of SB1 is more constitutional, which is why it shouldn’t be combined with the Nekritz/Cross/Biss measure.
The Illinois House passed pension reform measures Thursday that would cap “pensionable” salaries at Social Security wages and would increase retirement ages on a sliding scale for employees under age 45.
Following another series of “test-votes” as part of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s (D-Chicago) “weekly order of business” process, the House passed its first pension reforms of the 98th General Assembly. The measures now move to the Senate.
The measure capping salaries - $113,700 indexed for inflation - upon which pension benefits can be based passed in the chamber by an overwhelming 101-15 margin. The change would apply only to employees hired before Jan. 1, 2011.
The bill that raises the age at which state employees can begin collecting benefits passed by a closer 76-41 vote; however, the measure would not include Illinois judges. Retirement ages for employees hired before Jan. 1, 2011 would increase by one year for those ages 40-45, three years for those ages 35-39, and five years for employees under age 35.
Neither bill changes retirement benefits for state employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011, according to Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), who presented the bills on the House floor. Nekritz said the bills are identical to measures included in a comprehensive bill she has been working on with House Republican leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego). […]
House members also debated a measure that would increase the amount employees have withheld from their paychecks for pension benefits by 3 percent. But questions surrounding the plan’s constitutionality prompted the chamber to vote it down by a 37-79-1 vote.
* And the Nekritz/Cross/Biss bill was sent to the House floor yesterday…
A comprehensive pension bill was sent to the floor of the Illinois House Thursday, the third such plan now awaiting a final vote in either the House or Senate.
But as with the two proposals sent to the Senate Wednesday, there is no indication when a final vote might occur.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, is the co-author of House Bill 3411, which was approved by the House Personnel and Pensions Committee on a 9-1 vote. […]
Only Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, voted “no.” Poe’s district includes large numbers of state workers, and he’s opposed to any measure that reduces pension benefits.