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Union coalition blasts pension reform outline

Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a We Are One Illinois press release…

“Published reports suggest the legislative conference committee on pension reform is ready to rehash the same unfair, unconstitutional attacks on retirement security.

“Particularly harmful is the committee’s threat to delay and sharply reduce the cost-of-living adjustment that protects retirees from inflation. Research shows that a COLA cut to half the rate of inflation slashes the benefit earned by a retiree just as deeply as the drastic Senate Bill 1 that was twice rejected in the Senate.

“Teachers, police, nurses, caregivers and hundreds of thousands more working and retired public servants earned their pension, never missed a payment, and in most cases aren’t eligible for Social Security. They deserve better from the conferees. So does the Illinois Constitution, which lawmakers are sworn to uphold and which provisions of the committee’s outline would directly violate.

“We urge conferees and all legislators to abandon unconstitutional cuts and focus on Senate Bill 2404, a compromise pension solution that maintains basic fairness, saves nearly $140 billion and has majority support in both the Senate and House.”

The research referenced in the statement is here. Over twenty years, the half-CPI proposal would reduce SERS pension benefits by 25.4 percent, according to the study.

…Adding… Tribune

The Teachers’ Retirement System, which covers 700,000 working and retired teachers outside Chicago, downgraded its estimated savings from the Madigan plan by about $24.5 billion. That cuts the estimated overall savings for the Madigan plan to $163.2 billion.


Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook, Madigan’s pension leader, also cautioned that the elements that have surfaced don’t represent a deal.

“No one said ‘yes,’ but no one said ‘no’ either,” Nekritz said about the overall “package or on individual components.”


  1. - "Edge" - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:29 am:

    My recollection was that the compounded COLA was added by legislation in the ’90’s, and was not part of the original police and firefighter pension benefits. I’m not sure about SERS and TRS; and I totally could be wrong about this, but lets get real about how the penion benefits came to be; via legislation.

  2. - Knome Sane - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:35 am:

    If the unions are upset, that means they are finally making real progress.

  3. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:36 am:

    While we’re getting real about things, “Edge”, lets get real about court rulings stating that benefits in place at the time employment commences as well as any benefit additions that occurred during the course of employment are constitutionally protected.

  4. - Earl Shumaker - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:39 am:

    Even though this proposal is being supported by university presidents I wonder if this proposal is likewise being supported by the faculty and staff at those universities. I doubt it.

    Also, I wonder if faculty and staff were asked for their input at their respective institutions about this proposal.

    I hope legislators will not assume just because university presidents are supporting this draconian COLA proposal, this means that faculty and staff support the proposal.

  5. - SAP - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:39 am:

    Did I miss some period in the last 3 years when the unions were not upset about pension reform?

  6. - ""Edge" - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:40 am:

    im just saying that alot of bebefits have been added over time above what were in place at the time of employment.

  7. - Downstater - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:42 am:

    =If the unions are upset, that means they are finally making real progress=
    Interesting how they haven’t talked about people leaving their jobs for better pay and benefits at another job.

  8. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    ===im just saying that alot of bebefits have been added over time above what were in place at the time of employment.===

    Yes, I see that you’re saying that. I’m asking you to explain what the point of your saying it is.

  9. - xxtofer - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:47 am:

    as a university employee, no this was not discussed. it was announced.

  10. - A guy... - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:50 am:

    This is why a Conference Committee was needed in the first place. Unions are committed to blowing up any deal. The public is stretched out to the max trying to make ends meet through the next week or month. Most people and businesses have taken a huge hit in their salaries, income and pension or retirement benefits over a tough 5-6 years. I keep reading “just raise taxes” to solve this. I think they’re going to learn some of their most even ardent supporters now view them as greedy and unreasonable. That’s what I hear in precincts from everybody but them. Hope the committee keeps working. Let them sue, bring it to court and let the chips fall where they may. This game is getting more high stakes for them with every passing day. The system busts and they get far less or nothing. There are plenty examples (besides Detroit) out there.

  11. - Rusty618 - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:51 am:

    @EDGE, you are correct that the 3% COLA, enacted in 1978, became compounded in 1990. It looks like the GA and judges have a post-retirement increases of the full CPI. Are judges still left out of any changes to pensions?

  12. - Boog - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 9:57 am:

    What Knome said ^

    The fact that employee benefits are enshrined in the state constitution is a travesty in and of itself. To reform the system in any meaningful way (defined contribution as opposed to defined benefit), that particular insult to the taxpayers of Illinois will have to be remedied first.

  13. - Jimbo - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:04 am:

    A travesty eh? We should get rid of that pesky contracts clause in the Federal Constitution too. I mean really, why should any party have to hold up its end of a bargain.

    This ain’t Calvinball man, you can’t change the rules in the middle of the game.

  14. - Young and In The Way - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:09 am:

    Where have you been? Under a rock? The reason that the protection clause is in the constitution is because the GA has been raiding the pension funds for over forty years! If they had made the $48 billion in payments they skipped we wouldn’t be in this situation. Who benefited from skipping the payments? The taxpayers of Illinois. Get a clue!

  15. - Young and In The Way - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:14 am:

    As an example consider that IMRF (the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) is funded at just over 85%. Why? Because they do not allow local governments to skip payments!

    BTW the 5 retirement funds today are almost exactly where there were in 1971-72 funded at about 38%.

  16. - Jimbo - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:14 am:

    Boog, what if your employer said, “hey Boog buddy, we spent all our money on a new private jet, so your 401k is going to have to take a hit. We’re just going to take about 60% or so. I know it’s not legal to take your money, but not doing so would be an insult to our customers.”

  17. - Young and In The Way - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:18 am:

    The reason the university presidents are willing to throw their faculty and staff under the pension reform bus is because it doesn’t hit them! All of them have supplemental pension packages outside of SURS and paid by the universities! How many faculty and staff are aware of this?

  18. - retired and fed up - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:19 am:

    To all those critics of state employees maybe this will help you understand. You work for over 30 years and make all your social security payments and are promised a certain amount based on that and your employer contributions. You retire and then find out that your employor did not contribute it’s share or that Congress took the contributions and spent them on pork and other programs or your employer failed to match your 401K contributions. You now get much less than you than you earned and you’ve already retired and are in your late sixties and unable to find a job or to work. That’s what happened here. I made all my contributions and for 30 years was told I would get something and now it is to be less because the State did not contribute its share and spent it on state services for you and others to keep taxes artificially low. If this were private industry people would be going to jail.

  19. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:21 am:

    Hey Jimbo
    our 401k’s took a hit because CousinBrucey, BankerBilly and all the Wall Street scam artists flushed our savings AND bought the jets. The big question is do you want to get anything or not?

    BTW if you think Kassamoron is awful tune in ‘LS and listen to the stylish work of JBT — we think she just called for bombing Syria

  20. - Federalist - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:22 am:

    Earl Shumaker,

    The University Presidents certainly did not contact their faculty and retirees. At least they did not ask me. The IGPA proposal comes from a U of I think tank and as far as I can tell was taken to the University Presidents who met and endorsed it without exception.

    Very typical of such bureaucrats.

    It should also be noted that a number of the Presidents receive additional money that is not reported in their annual salary. Often it is given as an annuity or ‘other benefits’ or ‘retirement enhancement.’ If this is given to other faculty I am not aware of it.

    Poshard of SIU received $194,000 in annuities and other benefits from FY10-12. Peters of NIU received $245,000. The list goes on as other Presidents also received this extra money. The data can be obtained from the ISBE website although it is difficult to find. If anyone wants to know, let me know and I will attempt to give you details so one can conduct their own search.

    In any case, the Presidents take care of themselves.

  21. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:22 am:

    I’m all for bringing it to court, A Guy. I think most people in the middle class are catching on to being dumped on by their CEOs and management, whose salaries and benefits have been increasing at rates over those same 5-6 years that are only sustainable through continuing the policies that made those 5-6 years tough in the first place for their employees. Reading the CTBA analysis of public benefits will quickly provide verifiable evidence that will quickly disprove your “view” that public employees are either greedy or unreasonable. And one more thing, your prediction of imminent doom is getting as old as your mantra of austerity for the middle class while the rich continue to get richer…at our expense.

  22. - reformer - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:27 am:

    So the Madigan plan would save $163 billion, while the committee plan as of last week would save $145 billion. That’s not a huge gulf. Would the Tribsters urge a veto over $18 billion?

  23. - Norseman - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:28 am:

    === “No one said ‘yes,’ but no one said ‘no’ either,” Nekritz said about the overall “package or on individual components.” ===

    Can’t help but think that final positions won’t be taken until after the salary IV is dealt with.

  24. - Fed up - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:30 am:

    If the COLA is the problem. Why is the Chicago police pension one of the worst funded. CPD get 1.5% simple not compounded. It’s the fact that the city and state have cheated the pension funds.

  25. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:35 am:

    –I think they’re going to learn some of their most even ardent supporters now view them as greedy and unreasonable.–

    And who would those “most even (whatever that means) ardent supporters” be? You imply that you’ve learned their identities, please share with the class.

    It’s not unreasonable to insist that contracts and the Constitution be honored. It’s not greedy to seek to prevent shift-shaping politicians, chowderhead editorial writers and shameless plutocrats from stealing from you.

    It’s greedy to “borrow” someone’s money and then seek to change law to keep from paying it back.

    It’s unreasonable to blame unions and working stiffs for the collapse of the world financial system in 2008.

    It’s unreasonable to steal from working stiffs in order to please the High Lords of the Rating Agencies, the greedy and reckless hit men who whacked the world economy and are responsible for the lion’s share of hardship and suffering that have occurred since 2008.

  26. - Jimbo - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    I get your point CFS, and I agree it is a travesty. I think it is a pretty good argument in favor of defined benifit vs. defined contribution plans.

    My example was meant to illistrate an employer directly taking money or a benefit that was legally Boog’s because they didn’t know how to spend within their means.

  27. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:41 am:

    I could be wrong also, but I think the pension protection clause is in the state constitution because so many pension earners don’t get Social Security. Now folks like me in the Learjet crowd, who will get both Social Security and a state pension, may be able to better withstand pension cuts.

    I do support reform, but I want to also be cautious about the impact it will have on earners who will solely rely on their pensions.

    I also ask those who are very zealous that workers take cuts to please step back and consider the impact on folks who will rely solely on their pensions when they’re retired.

  28. - 332bill - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:42 am:

    One of the more onerous aspects of the Confernce Committee’s proposal is not the COLA, but that a person’s pension will be based on the average salary over your entire career and not the last four years. That would be HUGE.

  29. - Poolie - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:47 am:

    It should be noted that the proposal for SURS pension cuts were voted in by the university boards of trustees, and that the university presidents are hired (and fired) and directed by those same trustees.

    Take a close look at who these trustees are, and how many are on the Civic Committee and/or the Commercial Club. They certainly do represent a particular group, but it sure aint the faculty and staff.

  30. - Young and In The Way - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:47 am:

    If you are collecting both a pension and SS then your pension isn’t much. The so called SS windfall rule severely limits SS payments to those receiving pensions. In my mom’s case she is getting less that 15% of her SS benefit and her pension is less than $40k after 34 years! Not much of a double dip there!

  31. - retired and fed up - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    Don’t forget studies have shown that government employees make less than counterparts in private industry. The agency I left has attorneys with over 20 years who still have not hit 6 figures, the starting salary for brand new associates in law firms.

  32. - ahead - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    You rock wordslinger.

  33. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:49 am:

    I couldn’t have said it better Word. In fact, I wish I had your flair for the spoken word, Word. Your true gift is that the words you speak are so plainly reflective of what you also believe. That is in stark contrast to the words spoken by the morally bankrupt among us here. In fact, I’m continually stunned, probably naive of me I realize, by the political attitude of saying anything to win, regardless of its verity or lack of morality.

  34. - Phenomynous - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:52 am:

    Can anyone please tell me or provide a link of the cost analysis or actuarial analysis of the financial implications of compounding the COLA in 1990?

    There is always a lot of talk about how the state stole from the cookie jar and the taxpayers benefited. I’m certain the price tag of compounding the COLA was costly. We’re there any increases to member contribution in return for this increase in benefit. We all know the state didn’t meet their end of the bargain. But we all also know how policy is put into place.

    I’m serious, does anyone have a brief history of this? I would like to see it. Thanks.

  35. - Fed up - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 10:53 am:


    Just wondering the part about the pension being based on the salary for whole career, would that be starting from 01 July 2014, or would it revert back to earnings from early 90’s and before. Can’t see making it retroactive being legal at all.

  36. - Boog - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:02 am:


    It’s also unreasonable to expect Joe Taxpayer to pay for these mistakes via a tax increase, when Joe Taxpayer did not benefit - all of that money when to pork and parasites.

  37. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:07 am:

    Sending pension reform on up to the courts to decide is certainly tempting, I’m sure, but it’s also dangerous for the affected retirees. This is Illinois, with a long history of, shall we say, political accommodation. Do you want to take the chance? I wouldn’t.

  38. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:11 am:

    @Cassandra - Nothing is certain, but frankly, we either accept the theft, ignoring the state and federal constitutions, or take it to court. And so would you, if you were a state employee or retiree.

  39. - Cod - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:12 am:

    The proposed pension COLA cuts are actually larger than claimed by WeAreOne.

    There are two major errors in the report:

    1. The historical CPI inflation rate uses a 30-yr time period that ignores period of very high inflation during the late 70’s and early 80’s, making the average dramatically lower. High inflation periods are an inherent problem in our economic system, and the times are now at high risk for another such period. They should use a 40 year period to calculate the CPI.

    2. The true monthly spending budget for retirees is actually cut by over 30% if you do an individual financial plan. A good financial planner assumes a maximum lifespan of 90 years instead of an average as the report used. That means retirees will need to save part of their pension payments in early years of retirement to cover the reduced value of money in the future, or hope to die young.

  40. - Esquire - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:12 am:

    If the legislature passes a pension reform bill in a special session next month can it have an effective date when signed by the governor?

  41. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:14 am:

    –It’s also unreasonable to expect Joe Taxpayer to pay for these mistakes via a tax increase, when Joe Taxpayer did not benefit - all of that money when to pork and parasites.–

    Who are you calling “parasites?”

    If you think Ty and the Civvies and Big Brain Bruce and the Tribbies are leading this assault in defense of “Joe Taxpayer,” I can’t help you.

    They see the fear and anxiety brought on by the economic downturn as an opportunity to try to get folks to turn on their neighbors.

    They gorged themselves on a swell meal but now they want to skip out on the check, claiming it cost too much and the service was lousy.

    They’re trying to change the law to get away with stealing. That’s it.

  42. - Freeze up - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:16 am:

    All this talk about private jets got me thinking that jets would be much more useful than some of the stuff the state throws money at.

  43. - hottot - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:23 am:

    The only reason the state has a pension problem is because taxpayers were allowed to benefit from the state retirement system. Projects that the state could not afford out of the General Revenue Fund that benefit taxpayers, and continue to improve reelection chances for politicians were instead paid for out of the pension fund. Now that it’s time to replace the funding, politicians suddenly say the state does not have the money and instead want to take even more money from state workers who’ve already paid their required portion. The politicians say “schools and taxpayers are being squeezed and cannot afford to pay more.” Neither can state workers. We’ve paid our part, and we’re not allowed to benefit from the private sector retirement plans, why are taxpayers allowed to benefit from ours?

  44. - retired and fed up - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:24 am:

    Don’t forget. State employees are also Joe Taxpayers. If you didn’t benefit from the theft neither did we and we in fact have been harmed by it.

  45. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:27 am:

    Well, if you accept that diminishment of benefits is the only option, perhaps that’s true, PS. But it isn’t, it really isn’t.

  46. - reformer - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:27 am:

    == Joe Taxpayer did not benefit ==

    The State was able to spend money that should have gone into the pensions on education, medical care, social services and public safety — the big four budget items. Without the diversion from the pension system, spending would’ve been cut or taxes raised. The fact is residents benefited from higher state aid for their kids schools, among other things.

    The argument that State debt doesn’t need to be repaid because of pork projects actually applies more accurately to the capital programs. Does anyone advocate stiffing the capital bond holders because a small portion of the spending went to member initiatives?

  47. - hottot - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:28 am:

    It’s also unreasonable to expect Joe Taxpayer to pay for these mistakes via a tax increase, when Joe Taxpayer did not benefit

    Wordslinger, you’re absolutely wrong. Taxpayers DID benefit from the pension system. That new bike trail that was built in Tinley Park under Blagojevich, that new road you drive on during the “pension holidays”, the grant for that local business was all financed out of the pension system, when the money should’ve came out of the General Revenue Fund.

  48. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:30 am:

    –Wordslinger, you’re absolutely wrong. Taxpayers DID benefit from the pension system.–

    You’ve got the wrong guy, lol. No worries.

  49. - reformer - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:31 am:

    As far as the COLA goes, IMRF retirees enjoy 3% a year not compounded, but I haven’t heard anyone trying to cut their COLA in half. The difference is the IMRF pension system is healthy because municipalities have not been permitted to delay or underpay the employer’s share into the system.

    Whenever I hear a municipal official propose emasculating public safety COLAs, I want to know why the officials don’t lead by example and first cut their IMRF 3% COLA?

  50. - JC - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:34 am:

    I love the idea that somehow public employees aren’t hit by the tax increase too. What planet do you live on?

  51. - Phenomynous - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:52 am:

    How much did the pension payment liability increase after the compound COLA adjustment in 1990 and how big of a contributing factor was it in the state not making full payments? Anyone?

  52. - Proud - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 11:52 am:

    Could we at least raise the state retirement age? I know many a former public employee who retire at 55. Social Security does not allow that without a stiff penalty.

  53. - A guy... - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:02 pm:

    Proud, the diminished benefits of Soc. Sec. aren’t even attainable until age 62.

  54. - RNUG - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:09 pm:

    Proud @ 11:52am,

    There is a ‘penalty’ for retiring early. While every system is a bit different, the pension is calculated on the number of years of service. I’m going to use SERS as an example but, with the exception of GRS and JRS, the other systems (SURS, TRS) use a similar flat percentage per year calculation.

    Under SERS, for coordinated Tier 1 the pension is calculated as 1.67% * years * average final compensation. The maximum that can be earned is 75%. It’s all about how long you work, not what age you are.

    If you start working at age 20 and retire at age 65 with 45 years (technically a couple of months under), you receive 75%. If you start work at age 20 and retire at age 55, you receive 58.45%. That is a reduction of about 28% (75/58.45). If we compare that to Social Security, taking SS at age 62 versus age 67, you receive about 30% less. So there clearly is a penalty to retiring early. Maybe not a big a hit as SS, but it is there.

  55. - Proud - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    RNUG, but SS is also capped. I dont think anybody comes close to getting even 50% of there annual salary.

  56. - RNUG - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:19 pm:

    Don’t understand how the committee thinks changing the AAI is anywhere close to legal.

    In the cases of GARS, TRS, JRS and most SURS, all those members pay a specific percentage to receive the AAI when they retire. It’s deferred compensation that was bought and pre-paid for. If that isn’t a contract, I don’t know what is.

    In the case of SERS, the AAI was implemented as part of the total compensation package by the GA for a number of reasons, including the desire to pay less in salary, to remove the past practice of granting increases as the political winds blew, and a fixed rate was chosen to ensure predictability for planning / budgeting purposes.

    I will note that the GA granted the AAI to SERS first and then implemented the purchase option for the other retirement systems. The GA had the option to ask the SERS memebrs to pay for the AAI when they granted it and failed to do so. That was the choice of the GA … to promise future money instead of spending immediate money, something the GA is very good at doing.

  57. - RNUG - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:21 pm:

    Proud @ 12:11 pm

    Actually, because SS is partly a welfare system, the very low wage earner does very well under it. It’s the middle and up wage earner who gets a poor return on SS>

  58. - RNUG - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:25 pm:

    Proud @ 12:11 pm

    And SS is supposed to be one part of the three parts of a retirement plan. SS is the floor or base level. The other two parts are supposed to be personal savings and a workplace pension … like that State pension people earned.

  59. - Diogenes in DuPage - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:30 pm:

    Word, Wordslinger. Word.
    Can I have an Amen?

  60. - JC - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:35 pm:

    It also needs to be clarified that most teachers are not eligible for social security no matter how much they ever contributed to it. It goes to others. In addition, social security was never intended to be the main income in retirement, hence it’s caps and smaller amounts. Reason being, at least in a teacher’s case, the low pay didn’t allow for investments and much savings. That’s what their pension is supposed to be. Their income to live on in retirement plus any savings. That’s all there is.

  61. - lost in the weeds - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:42 pm:

    Cutting pension using average salary over career will cause a 38 percent reduction in pension in some cases. Negates benefit of promotions. Slashes inflation effects on salary.

    ADD cola cut Of 25 percent you get 63 percent cut.

  62. - mythoughtis - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:44 pm:

    ==It’s also unreasonable to expect Joe Taxpayer to pay for these mistakes via a tax increase, when Joe Taxpayer did not benefit - all of that money when to pork and parasites. ==

    Last I knew ‘pork’ was money that was sent to the legislatures home district to pay for things that his/her constituents wanted the state to pay for. Things like new buildings, parks, etc, payments covered construction costs, etc (JOBS to taxpayers in his/her district).

    ‘parasites’…. are you referring to the less fortunent on the welfare and disability rolls, or are you referring to state employees?

    Taxpayers need to pay for those who (welfare/disablity) cannot pay for themselves.. unless you think we should line children/disabled up and send them off a cliff? As for state employees, taxpayers hire them to do duties for them, and they are therefore entitled to just compensation based upon their duties, skills, knowledge and experience.

  63. - Esquire - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:44 pm:

    In Arizona, retired public officials get a 4% compounded COLA. So far, the courts there have said it can’t be diminished by the legislature, in regard to current retirees. Ruling based on contract law and a similar constitution provision.

  64. - Andrew Szakmary - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 12:45 pm:

    I realize that many private sector workers have been brutalized over the past 20 years, but even before further pension cuts being debated today are enacted, state workers in Illinois have not been spared. Here is my personal story, and I have probably fared better than most because I left state employment in 2001 and have not had to deal with the furloughs, lack of raises, etc. that have prevailed since then.

    I began employment under SURS in August 1990. From that time to the present, there has not been a single enhancement in my personal pension benefit or employee benefits, but there have been four changes that have already had a severe negative effect on me (before this latest round of further diminishment coming down the pike):

    1) In 1998, the general formula was sweetened to provide 2.2% of final average salary, which no doubt benefited some people. However, this hurt me, because I (like most SURS members) will not be retiring under the general formula, and to pay for this so-called enhancement accruable sick leave was eliminated. This cost me at least $5,000 when I terminated state employment in August 2001.

    2) In 2005, the authority to set the effective rate of interest (ERI) under the money purchase formula was transferred to the State Comptroller, while SURS continued to set the ERI for other purposes. Since then, in most years, the ERI set by the Comptroller has been lower than the ERI set by SURS, and the cumulative effect of this change will be a 3.5% reduction in my initial pension.

    3) In July 2012, at the urging of Quinn and other politicians, SURS reduced its future assumed rate of return from 8.5% to 7.75%, which caused a change in the money purchase annuity factors that are used to determine my initial monthly pension benefit under the money purchase formula. This cut my pension by about 8.7%.

    4) In July 2013, as a result of earlier legislation, retirees had to begin paying for health insurance, even if they signed an irrevocable waiver of the pension sweeteners that were enacted in 1998 in return for the promise of free health care. Thus, even though I signed this waiver, I will have to pay $84 per month for my health insurance (plus additional premiums for dependents) when I begin drawing a pension in December 2013, unless this provision is struck down in court.

    Overall, I think it is fair to say that my association with the State of Illinois has been no bed of roses. I will fight - without feeling guilty - to preserve what remains of my pension and health benefits with every legal means available to me.

  65. - Earl Shumaker - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 1:05 pm:

    Thanks Federalist for your response to my question about university president’s supporting a COLA cut to half the rate of inflation

    Again, I hope that legislators and the media realize that when these university administrators say they support this proposal, they are not speaking for their current and retired employees.

  66. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 1:18 pm:

    @Cassandra ===Well, if you accept that diminishment of benefits is the only option, perhaps that’s true, PS. But it isn’t, it really isn’t.===

    I agree Cass, but it seems the only bills being considered are drastic benefit diminishments, and will immediately be challenged as being unconstitutional. While there’s always a chance of shenanigans in Illinois, the ramifications to the rule of law would be tremendous and the effects would destroy the state. You don’t get to declare selective bankruptcy without bad things happening.

  67. - Earl Shumaker - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 1:28 pm:

    I have appreciated the various comments about the latest developments in regards to our COLAs. No doubt if this proposal or any other COLA slashing proposal is enacted into law, there will be a court case.
    Tied into this is the issue of judges being excluded from having their COLAs slashed. By excluding judges, couldn’t an argument on a federal level be made that members of the other pension systems are
    being denied equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution?

  68. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 1:40 pm:

    ==I love the idea that somehow public employees aren’t hit by the tax increase too.==

    I had somebody argue with me one time about this. They said that public employees didn’t actually pay taxes because they were public workers paid by taxes. Therefore, public employees are not real taxpayers. I kid you not.

  69. - thechampaignlife - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 2:15 pm:

    Maybe the solution is to increase benefits:

  70. - facts are stubborn things - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 2:15 pm:

    no committee agreement and certainly no bill. Any bill that diminishes pensions will be litagated. Has any one heard what the floor and cap will be on the COLA as the committe is currently considering?

  71. - pensioner - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 2:20 pm:

    Will repeat the available case law throughout the country on this topic. The pension will not be diminished.

  72. - led hed - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 4:29 pm:

    1. if a 1% drop in contributions can even be interpreted as a fair “consideration” for taking away the 3% cola as well as basing a pension on the career total wages vs. last day pay, where’s the “consideration” for present retirees who the 1% drop won’t affect?
    2. Leading up to the release of the current information, a common theme repeated was that “pension reform” must involve “shared sacrifice” among all parties involved. Can anyone tell me who else in this latest scheme is “sharing” in the sacrifice of these current and retired employees?

  73. - Ruby - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 4:33 pm:

    The cuts that are made to state pensions and approved by the court will be also made to Social Security in the near future. Unfortunately, the “reform” movement to cut social Security is already well underway.

  74. - walkinfool - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 4:49 pm:

    Old arguments being rehashed. Constitutional experts abound. Most complaints have not included realistic alternatives.

    Let’s just get the agreement on a bill and move forward.

    Every single proposal, regardless of its content, has been met with announcements by some group or other, that they will sue. So let’s just get on with it.

  75. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 5:24 pm:

    ==Every single proposal, regardless of its content, has been met with announcements by some group or other, that they will sue. So let’s just get on with it. ==

    Careful. People will accuse you of “giving up” and not fighting. It’s not a matter of giving up. It’s a matter of taking the fight to the appropriate place, which is the state Supreme Court. I agree. Get on with it already. I’m tired of the uncertainty. A bill of some kind is going to pass (at least that’s my opinion). It’s better to deal in reality and let it be settled by the courts.

  76. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 6:10 pm:

    If all else fails and the state legislature passes a bill which diminishes retiree benefits, then of course they should take it to the courts.

    But that’s still a failure of the political system, which should be able to work out problems like this.

    And retirees and future retirees, especially, should beware of a send it off to the courts solution. It rewards political failure and it really is a risk for you. There are no certainties and there is probably no appeal either because this is a state issue. If somebody is telling you to send it off to the Supremes, they are giving you bad advice. You should demand a political solution.

  77. - RNUG - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 6:21 pm:

    Cassandra @ 6:10 pm:

    If it is a straight contract law issue that the ISC gets wrong (not likely unless the whole deal is rigged because contract law is prety straightforward), or a violation of IRS pension codes (the IRS already treads lightly there when it is State government but it has happened), then I believe it could move to Federal court. No guarentees … but there have been some contract law and government pension cases that ended up in the Federal court system.

  78. - retired and fed up - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 7:15 pm:

    RNUG. You are correct. The U.S. Constitution also prohibits states from enacting laws to get out of contractual obligations, which is what it appears will happen in Illinois and I don’t think either the ISC or federal judges can be bought.

    Also both constitutions have equal protection clauses and there does not appear to be a valid reason to treat judges who have a better pension plan than most better than the rest.

  79. - RNUG - Tuesday, Aug 27, 13 @ 7:22 pm:

    retired and fed up @ 7:15 pm:

    Thanks for the confirmation of the federal level. I’ve spent most of the past 5 years looking at the IL and other states’ laws, with only an occasional reading of federal cases as they touched on pension issues.

  80. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 6:15 am:

    @WalkinFool - Since you just want to pass something, I assume you’re backing the unamended Cullerton Bill 2404. It’s the only bill that is able to pass both the house and the senate, and the only person standing in the way of that passage is Madigan. I, and many others, won’t forget that.

  81. - Sandy - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 6:43 am:

    Someone mentioned all the pension sweeteners since the 1990’s. These are assuredly the cause of the crisis today. If the legislature had left things alone, there would be no crisis. As it is, Constitution or not, the money is running out and taxpayers are tapped out. People are leaving Illinois if they can for lower tax states, so the unions will have to give on something. You can’t expect people who only earn $50K per year to have property/income/sales taxes raised to support retirees with $75K per year pensions.

  82. - Young and In The Way - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 8:06 am:

    People are leaving? Why do we have 600,000 more people in Illinois than ten years ago?

    It’s not the people who make $50,000 a year who need to pay more! It’s the people making the big money who need to pay more! The top 1% of earners in Illinois make almost 60% of the income! However they pay less than 30% of the taxes! Fair? We need a graduated income tax!

    $75,000 pensions? The average is less than $32,000. Get your facts right before you make general statements like this!

  83. - Young and In The Way - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 8:08 am:

    Also the pension under funding started in the late forties. In 1971 the pensions were funded at almost the exact same level as today 38%. So much for the sweetener theory!

  84. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 8:11 am:

    Most of the state’s annual pension contribution today is to make up for past years of chronic underfunding.

    Once you start being responsible and paying your bills, it becomes a “crisis” in some circles.

  85. - facts are stubborn things - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 8:26 am:

    I beleive one of reasons that the GA is having trouble reaching a deal is that pension reform (as currently being discussed is illegal. You make a contract you keep it. They have already passed (over 2 years ago) sweeping pension reform for new employees (perfectly legal and arguably needed) going forward. To me, no deal, is a possible outcome and that does not mean failure for the GA. There are many changes that the GA could make (dicussed on this site many times) that are legal and probably should be passed by the GA. It is amazing to me we the GA is even talking about changing benifits to those already retired. That is just plain wrong period when people who have finished the game and crossed the finish line have the rules changed on them.

  86. - Sandy - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 12:38 pm:

    To Young and In the Way:
    The reason the average pension is “modest” is because ALL pensions are averaged in, including those of people who retired 20-30 years ago. If you took the average of the past 10 years, you would get a far higher number. As to the increase in population that you cite: that is not what the census figures report. The 2010 census showed a DECREASE in population of 200,000.

  87. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 12:49 pm:

    –The 2010 census showed a DECREASE in population of 200,000.–

    You are wrong. Why do you so desperately want to be right?

    U.S. Census 2010: 12,830,632

    U.S. Census 2000: 12,419,293

    And despite the fact-free hysteria of the U-Haul crowd, the census estimate for 2012 shows an
    increase to 12,875,255.

  88. - Cod - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 1:09 pm:

    Sandy, you are making up “facts”.

    Illinois gained over 400,000 people in the decade between 2000 and 2010. Try looking things up before you write.

  89. - Cod - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 1:13 pm:

    Wordslinger, I get where you got the “slinger” part of your name. You are a quick draw!

  90. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 1:16 pm:

    ===Someone mentioned all the pension sweeteners since the 1990’s. These are assuredly the cause of the crisis today. ===

    Not really. Underfunding is the biggest cause, stock market crash and probably compounded colas is in there as well, which came before the 1990s.

  91. - Sandy - Wednesday, Aug 28, 13 @ 7:03 pm:

    Why did Illinois lose a congressional seat in 2012 if it gained in population? That only happens if you lose people. Why are 16% of Illinois residents on food stamps? Why is our unemployment rate over 9%? Why did almost all of the 67% tax increase in 2011 go towards pensions not social services etc., and it still wasn’t enough? Why does one fourth of the state budget go towards pensions for 5% of the population?

  92. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:28 am:

    –Why did Illinois lose a congressional seat in 2012 if it gained in population? That only happens if you lose people–

    So the census is wrong? You can look it up yourself?

    Dude, maybe you should educate yourself a little bit independently before you start asking a lot of simple-minded questions.

    The google is your friend.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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