* From the Tribune’s coverage of this morning’s pension reform conference committee hearing…
Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, had a different take on the legislation. “We call it theft,” he said.
The union leader acknowledged the pension funding issue needs to be addressed, but said the cuts in the bill are too drastic. Montgomery said he preferred a union-backed bill that had previously won the support of Cullerton and passed the Senate.
Montgomery said the proposal on the table today looked like a “flashback” to a “nearly identical” Madigan-backed, union-opposed proposal that passed the House but failed in the Senate last spring. Montgomery said the plan ultimately will save nothing because the cuts are unconstitutional and the Illinois Supreme Court will throw the plan out.
* Meanwhile, we discussed Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon’s opposition to the pension bill a little yesterday. Here is her full statement…
You may have read or heard about a pension compromise bill made public yesterday. I congratulate the legislative leaders who came together in a bipartisan way to produce a pension compromise, but the proposed legislation puts too much of the burden on lower income workers and retirees.
We’re getting closer, but we’re not quite there yet. We need changes in the pension compromise to protect lower wage workers and retirees from bearing the brunt of a pension crisis caused by years of underfunding and abuses by a previous generation of longtime politicians.
There also must be language in the bill that protects the retirement ages of workers in physically demanding jobs, such as state police and correctional officers.
How did we get here? Legislators including Judy Baar Topinka helped create this mess in 1994 with a bill that the SEC called the “primary driver” behind a $57 billion increase in unfunded pension liabilities between 1995 and 2010.
Topinka also voted in 1989 for a bill that allowed lawmakers to max out their pensions and grow them far beyond their legislative salaries. As a result of that bill, Topinka in 2009 collected a pension worth over $141,000 - 23 percent higher than any salary she ever earned. [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/11/09]
We are in this situation because of the last generation of politicians like Judy Baar Topinka. It is now our generation’s responsibility to fix the problem, and fix it fairly.
* But a year ago, Simon backed Rep. Elaine Nekritz’s pension bill. From a press release…
Lt. Governor Simon: Illinois one step closer to fiscal stability
SPRINGFIELD – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today issued the following statement regarding pension reform legislation introduced by members of the Illinois House of Representatives.
“Today we are one step closer to strengthening our pension system and restoring fiscal stability to our state. Without action, the strain pension payments place on our budget will crowd out funding for other priorities like education, public safety and health care. I would like to thank members of the House for their work to come up with a solution, and I look forward to reviewing this proposal and bringing everyone to the table to move forward,” Simon said.
Today’s legislation builds on Governor Pat Quinn’s call for pension reform. The Governor has urged lawmakers to take action that will save the state’s critical programs and services while preserving the pension system for future generations.
* In related news, Democratic US Rep. Jan Schakowsky also weighed in against the bill…
“Members of the Illinois General Assembly have been presented with an unfair pension proposal that places an enormous financial burden on those who did everything right – the public employees who served our state and faithfully made their pension contributions. Yet, this proposal would subject them to deep cuts on their cost-of-living adjustments, which will grow over time and substantially reduce their pensions. For the many teachers and other public employees who don’t collect Social Security, the size of the cuts will take away the retirement security they have earned over a lifetime of work.
“Teachers and other public employees entered into a contract – the obligations of which are recognized by the Illinois State Constitution. It is particularly galling that retirees are being asked to take such a hard hit at the very same time that the legislature is considering additional tax breaks for large, profitable corporations.
“I hope this proposal will be rejected so that a more balanced approach can be passed and one that includes a revenue component and that doesn’t further erode the middle class by putting the entire burden on public employees and retirees.”