[Before reading this, you might want to take a look at the new pension reform outline post.]
* You’ll recall that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner had this to say the other day about the pension reform agreement reached by all four legislative leaders…
Unfortunately, the Springfield insiders have kept Illinoisans in the dark about the details of this bill. We’ve seen politicians do this before and it is rarely a good sign for taxpayers.
Any deal that would rank pension payouts to government union bosses ahead of priorities like education and public safety should cause grave concern and will lead to higher taxes.
* Rauner’s good friend Ken Griffin, who is the richest man in Illinois and has contributed more than $250,000 to Rauner’s campaign, followed up with an op-ed in the Tribune which expounds on Rauner’s talking points…
Now our political leaders say they have made a breakthrough. In closed door meetings, hidden from public view, they have drafted legislation that’s intended to show they can get something done. But in this case, getting nothing done would be preferable to the passage of legislation that all but ensures the economic demise of our great state.
The proposed legislation provides for modest reforms of our broken pension system coupled with guarantees that payments to government employee pensions will come before paying for schools, hospitals, parks, police or fire protection. This isn’t a reform, but rather a fiscal death sentence: The state would be stuck with pension funding requirements that squeeze out all other priorities and tie the hands of future leaders.
The bitter truth is that our politicians have sold government employees a fraudulent bill of goods. Absent extraordinary economic growth, our state is going to collapse under the weight of generous pension promises made by union leaders and politicians. And with each passing day, the $100 billion gap between what has been promised and what is provided for grows by roughly $5 million.
Here is where this story will inevitably end: Our state is going to be forced to break its promises to our government employees and retirees. They will receive less than they bargained for. Our state’s taxpayers will see the 67 percent “temporary” tax increase converted into a permanent tax increase. And soon we will hear that even further tax increases are needed to meet our obligations. This is the price we are all going to pay for sending the wrong leaders to Springfield for too many years.
That op-ed does a good job of explaining what Rauner was really talking about. He opposes the proposal because he hates the funding guarantee, believing it would “rank pension payouts to government union bosses ahead of priorities like education and public safety.”
* And the Illinois Policy Institute, which received a $500,000 contribution from Rauner, piled on for good measure…
The bill adds a pension-funding guarantee, prioritizing government worker pensions over all core spending. If pensions weren’t already squeezing out core spending enough already, Madigan’s bill adds a pension-funding guarantee to appease the unions. With Madigan’s minimal reforms, this funding guarantee will lock in further tax increases and increase the burden on taxpayers. A vote for this bill is a vote for tax hikes.
Notice how they refer to this as “Madigan’s” bill, when, in fact, the proposal has been agreed to by all four legislative leaders, including the two Republicans.
Some of the rest of the Policy Institute’s analysis is off base. The bill does impose a means test on cost of living allowance adjustments, for instance.
All that’s missing so far is a full-on attack by Reboot Illinois, which is funded by Ken Griffin’s independently wealthy spouse.
…Adding… From Reboot’s executive editor…
Rich: Sorry to disappoint. No attack here:
* Meanwhile, the Sun-Times editorial board warned Rauner to back off…
Madigan on Wednesday said Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has been lobbying Republicans to reject the deal because the “funding guarantee,” the clause that obliges the state to make its annual pension payment, is too strong and could hamstring the state.
Under the funding guarantee, as we understand it and as it has been drafted in other pension bills, the state retains some flexibility, particularly in the event of a financial crisis. And more importantly, the state has a fiscal and moral responsibility to make these payments — its failure to do so helped create this pension mess. The guarantee also could help the state’s credit rating and could help the bill survive a court challenge.
Given the thinness of the argument against the funding guarantee, we fear this is straight politics. Solving the state’s fiscal mess could undercut Rauner’s chances to win either in March or November by giving his opponents a key victory. We reached out to Rauner on this but didn’t get a return call.
* So far, there’s nothing new from the Tribune editorial board on the substance of the proposal, although it did warn the other day - in an apparent preview of one of Rauner’s two main talking points - that leaders should give legislators and the public an opportunity to see the bill before it’s voted on. The Tribune has editorialized in the past against a funding guarantee, however.
*** UPDATE *** From the Illinois Policy Institute…
“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Remember when former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said this about ObamaCare?
Well, the Illinois General Assembly is repeating that horrible mistake, and we need your help today to stop them.
Illinois’ legislative leaders announced a pension “fix” right before Thanksgiving. And lawmakers have been called back to Springfield on Tuesday to vote on the measure.
The only problem? No one has seen the bill.
Legislative leaders released an outline of the plan earlier today. We quickly provided a breakdown of the proposal – based on what we know, it delays reform and keeps Illinois in a constant state of crisis.
It’s likely that a bill will not appear until late Monday. That means legislators will only have a few hours to digest a complicated piece of legislation dealing with the most critical fiscal issue in Illinois before voting on it.
We’ve been down this road before. We know where it leads. We need your help right now to mount a full-scale campaign to make sure that this bill – negotiated in secret, agreed on in secret and being drafted in secret – gets to see some daylight before legislators vote on it.
Please help us today – let’s demand to see the bill!
Vice President of External Relations
P.S. Illinois taxpayers and government workers can’t afford pension “glitches.” Lawmakers should refuse to pass a pension bill to find out what is in it. We need your help right now to block a backdoor pension deal.
All of the links lead to a fundraising page which asks people to “Donate today and help us block Madigan’s backdoor pension deal!”
Perhaps not coincidentally, I received a blast e-mail earlier today from an e-mail address which made it appear as though it were sent by Gov. Pat Quinn. The e-mail provided a link to a clever little YouTube video that “thanks” Illinois Republicans for cooperating with Democrats on the pension bill…