* WCIA’s Mark Maxwell…
Kennedy said “we can’t afford to allow” a portion of the Biss pension bill that he said would “negatively affect” faculty at the University of Illinois. Kennedy chaired the Board of Trustees at the time, and posted a video to YouTube with a message crafted to ease concerns among tenured faculty who had grown worried they would see their pension benefits significantly downgraded.
An error in the legislation would have forced 4,000 university faculty into a difficult corner: either abruptly retire or see their monthly pension benefits slashed by up to 30 percent. As board chairman, Kennedy apologized to faculty for allowing it to reach that point, then promised to engage with the legislature and resolve the issue. The error was corrected soon after, preventing the threat of what he called a “brain drain” — a mass exodus of tenured professors whose exits would have cost the university federal grant dollars too.
At the start of that video message, Kennedy also said that “pension reform was needed.”
Does that mean Kennedy supported the Biss pension bill before he opposed it?
“No way,” the campaign responded. In the same video, Kennedy says “The bill had lots of parts, not all of which were fully vetted.”
In response to our inquiry, Kennedy’s campaign produced emails he sent to colleagues in 2014 where he analyzed the pension changes as destructive to the working poor, an affront to a safety net that people had earned during their careers, and he criticized the state legislature for historically failing to pay the pension obligation, a move he said effectively stripped public schools of state funding and resulted in higher property taxes.
* Pritzker campaign…
As a candidate for governor, Chris Kennedy is attacking Dan Biss for his unconstitutional pension theft bill, but when he was the chair of the University of Illinois’ board of trustees, Kennedy supported that same legislation.
In a 2014 clip, Kennedy said “pension reform was needed,” in context of Biss’ recently-passed bill in Springfield. Pension benefits for 467,000 state workers, including teachers and nurses, would have been cut under the unconstitutional bill that Dan Biss wrote and Chris Kennedy supported.
“Chris Kennedy was all in for a pension bill that slashed retirement for hundreds of thousands of working families,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “But now that Kennedy is running for office, he can’t pretend to be a friend to working families when it’s clear where he stood when it really mattered.”
Quite a bit over the top there, but it’s a week before election day.