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Lightfoot: “Pensions are a promise”

Thursday, Apr 11, 2019

* Tribune editorial

On pensions, Lightfoot does not support changing the Illinois Constitution’s pension clause to ease benefit mandates that are straining all levels of government. We hope to change her mind on that.

They’re gonna be sorely disappointed by today’s news.

* Here’s Mayor-elect Lightfoot today during her address to the Illinois Senate

I grew up in a union household and I also watched men in my town who had spent their whole lives working in steel mills lose their pensions.

Let me be clear about my first principles regarding pensions. Pensions are a promise. We cannot turn our backs on those promises. I’m committed to working collaboratively with all stakeholders and through the collective bargaining process to make sure we can meet our commitments.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

61 Comments »
  1. - Yiddishcowboy - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:13 pm:

    Thank you Madam Mayor. Agreed. I’m not writing what I think of the Tribune’s editorial. Perhaps Rauner wrote the piece? /s


  2. - Norseman - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:14 pm:

    Bravo.


  3. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:15 pm:

    ===ease benefit mandates that are straining all levels of government===

    “Please don’t tax rich people. Our owners would be displeased and will threaten to move the cubs to South Dakota to avoid taxes.”


  4. - City Zen - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:19 pm:

    Tier Pi.


  5. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    Did she communicate that to the governor? He apparently thinks actually funding them adequately is optional.


  6. - Keyrock - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:29 pm:

    Meet the new boss.
    Definitely not the same as the old boss.


  7. - Christopher - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:30 pm:

    With each day, there are things to like about Mayor-elect Lightfoot. And she hasn’t even officially started yet.


  8. - Honeybear - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:40 pm:

    Thank you thank you thank you
    Man do I ever appreciate her saying this.


  9. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:42 pm:

    More beautiful political words were seldom spoken. This is true especially when considering who wants to cut pensions: the millionaires and billionaires who push this via their “policy” networks.


  10. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:42 pm:

    ==I didn’t promise anybody anything and if I didn’t promise it, I’m not paying for it.==

    Ok dude. Be careful and don’t step on the sidewalk or drive on the street and please don’t flush the toilet.


  11. - wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:44 pm:

    –On pensions, Lightfoot does not support changing the Illinois Constitution’s pension clause to ease benefit mandates that are straining all levels of government. –

    And where is this Constitutional amendment? Is it in writing somewhere?

    Seems the troncs never got over how they were played by Quinn, Madigan and Cullerton on SB1 before the 2014 election.


  12. - OutHereInTheMiddle - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:49 pm:

    ==I didn’t promise anybody anything and if I didn’t promise it, I’m not paying for it.==

    Remedial civics class anyone? ;-)


  13. - DisaffectedMillennial - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:50 pm:

    I somewhat agree with anonymous at 2:26. I didn’t promise pensions. I didn’t vote for the pols who did. I don’t want to pay for six figure pensions to people who didn’t demand that their pension be funded for the last 30 years. I could support the modest pensions of most govt workers. Max $100k per year. But there’s a point when paying some pension benefits from the tax dollars of those making modest salaries, paying student loans, and renting because they can’t save enough to buy a home is immoral. Stop burdening my generation and future generations. Stop kicking the can. Cap the pensions.


  14. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:50 pm:

    == Seems the troncs never got over how they were played by Quinn, Madigan and Cullerton on SB1 before the 2014 election. ==

    Then Pat Quinn played himself.


  15. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 2:55 pm:

    Some of y’all in the comments thread need to revisit some core concepts of high school civics with special attention towards the concept of civil society.

    I wasn’t alive 40 years ago, but I recognize that if I live in Illinois I have to pick up the tab for the goods and services the state provided then without fully funding pension costs associated with them.


  16. - Nieva - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:01 pm:

    Well, one thing I find to like about a Chicago Mayor.


  17. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:01 pm:

    If you’re stayin, you’re payin.


  18. - Nick Name - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:14 pm:

    Anti-pension people bravely commenting anonymously.


  19. - ajjacksson - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:25 pm:

    “I didn’t promise anybody anything….”
    Either live under the rules of democracy, or go buy an island.


  20. - Christopher - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:32 pm:

    They don’t even have to cap the pensions. Just get the politicians to pay into the system what they are supposed to.


  21. - JS Mill - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:41 pm:

    =I somewhat agree with anonymous at 2:26. I didn’t promise pensions. I didn’t vote for the pols who did. I don’t want to pay for six figure pensions to people who didn’t demand that their pension be funded for the last 30 years.=

    So you voted for everything else? Millenials seem to think that being part of society means everything they want and nothing they don’t want. That is not how it works. The state is a perpetual organization and some promises are perpetual too.

    =I could support the modest pensions of most govt workers. Max $100k per year.=

    Thank goodness your support is not a requirement.

    =But there’s a point when paying some pension benefits from the tax dollars of those making modest salaries, paying student loans, and renting because they can’t save enough to buy a home is immoral. Stop burdening my generation and future generations. Stop kicking the can. Cap the pensions.=

    The only thing immoral is making a promise and not keeping it.


  22. - Earnest - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:56 pm:

    >Pensions are a promise. We cannot turn our backs on those promises.

    Gosh, Chicago voters may have thought they were electing a liberal, but here she is in office spouting off conservative values like taking responsibility and living up to your commitments. /s


  23. - AnonymousOne - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:56 pm:

    Pensions are more than a promise. They are a contractual agreement. No bait and switch.


  24. - RNUG - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:57 pm:

    == I don’t want to pay for six figure pensions to people who didn’t demand that their pension be funded for the last 30 years. ==

    Uniond went to over the underfunding. The courts, to paraphrase, said government could fund the pensions in any manner the government wanted to … as last night as government made sure to pay each pension when due.

    Once that ruling came out, there was no leverage, other than political, to get government to properly fund the pensions.


  25. - RNUG - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 3:58 pm:

    Unions went to court over …


  26. - The Original Name/Nickname/Anon - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:06 pm:

    Why is everyone so afraid of the constitutional amendment if (as expected) the amendment can’t legally change anything.

    As a future beneficiary of a public pension, I think they should amend the constitution and try to reduce future accruals on Tier 1 pensions. Lock in what is earned (current retiree can’t be changed), and future pension earnings are lower.

    Maybe the courts would overrule (some are certain they would). But the reality is that some Tier 1 benefits are richer than they ought to be.


  27. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:07 pm:

    The pension crisis happened over many decades. For many of those decades, it seems no one wanted to try for a graduated income tax, for the upper-incomes to be taxed at higher rates and more revenue. It’s hard to do today, let alone in the past (a graduated income tax CA). So lots of upper-income folks got a big break over the many decades.


  28. - You Bet - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:07 pm:

    What earthly difference does it make what the Tribune thinks on any issue? The last time I saw a Chicago Tribune downstate (or anywhere else for that matter in the past 5 years) was at the bottom of a bird cage.


  29. - Christopher - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:11 pm:

    –some Tier 1 benefits are richer than they ought to be–

    I don’t know what you’re referring to, but everything was negotiated between the union and the government, then put to a written contract and voted upon by the union membership.


  30. - Lurkin' MBA - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:14 pm:

    All of this is hot air until we link what voters and elected officials want with how to pay for it.


  31. - Christopher - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:14 pm:

    –try to reduce future accruals–

    There’s the problem right there. The court ruled that the pensions can’t be diminished.


  32. - The Original Name/Nickname/Anon - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:20 pm:

    ==I don’t know what you’re referring to, but everything was negotiated between the union and the government, then put to a written contract and voted upon by the union membership. ==

    It certainly was, but I believe sometimes the GA was not negotiating in the best interest of the state, but instead changes were made to help those in power. The Chicago/Cook County Early Retirement plans were literally just giveaways.


  33. - City Zen - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:27 pm:

    ==but everything was negotiated between the union and the government==

    Um, compounded COLA?


  34. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:27 pm:

    Right wing concern trolling or not, the constitution will not be reopened for pension cuts. Mayor-elect Lightfoot adds a strong voice for pension protection.


  35. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:43 pm:

    The 3 percent compounded AAI (mistakenly called a COLA) is a product of a time when inflation was higher than it is now and had been increasing at a steady pace for many years. Inflation averaged 6.37 percent during the 20 year period prior to 1990, with a high of 13.9 at the beginning of 1990 and a low of 1.46 percent at the beginning of 1987.

    Since 1990, the growth in the cost of living from year to year has been slower. In the 29 years since the current TRS AAI was set, inflation has averaged 2.47 percent, with a high of 5.4 percent in 1990 and a low of -0.09 percent in 2015.


  36. - JS Mill - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 4:53 pm:

    = I think they should amend the constitution and try to reduce future accruals on Tier 1 pensions. Lock in what is earned (current retiree can’t be changed), and future pension earnings are lower.=

    There are clearly some folks here who are new to this discussion which has gone on for years. You need to educate on the facts and history of the pension issue.

    As @GOM pointed out this issue has been growing for decades, almost a century. Many governors had a hand in it. Many legislators as well.

    The fact is you get what you earned from the pension. Outside of a few fat cats like the Union guy who qualified for a pension for subbing a day (that is not on pensioners, that is on the ILGA) the overwhelming majority that receive or will receive a pension are pretty modest. It isn’t a supplement like social security (which our federal income tax dollars help bailout) it is meant as an income. Deferred income, a common practice in the private sector. It should be taxed like all other income, bit that is a different issue.

    People attack someone making $40,000, $50,000, $100,000 a year after working for 35 or more years and paying in because of some nonsense perpetuated by millionaires and billionaires who want everything for free. It is a joke but they have successfully have pitted us against each other.

    ===but everything was negotiated between the union and the government==

    Um, compounded COLA?===

    Maybe the courts would overrule (some are certain they would). But the reality is that some Tier 1 benefits are richer than they ought to be.=

    AAI was a jim Thompson deal to buy votes for something else. And the union (which union or are you calling all of them “the union” ?) didn’t bargain for me or thousands of others.


  37. - City Zen - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 5:04 pm:

    ==The 3 percent compounded AAI (mistakenly called a COLA) is a product of a time when inflation was higher than it is now==

    But was it “negotiated between the union and the government, as the OP stated?

    No. No it was not.


  38. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 5:11 pm:

    Ya got me there, CZ. I was trying to point out that in today’s inflationary environment, the 3% AAI seems excessive. It, in reality, isn’t.


  39. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 5:27 pm:

    Non pension fund participants were complaining about how unfair it was in the 70’s, with inflation in double digits while retirees were earning only a 3% AAI. Where were they then?


  40. - RNUG - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 6:10 pm:

    == I don’t know what you’re referring to, but everything was negotiated between the union and the government, then put to a written contract and voted upon by the union membership. ==

    Nope, nope, and nope.

    The union had nothing to do with it.

    The pension was originally (prior to 1970) a grant by the State as part of employment. With the 1970 Constitution, it was explicitly acknowledged as an enforceable contract.

    The pension is a (individual) contract between the State and the employee. No union involvement.

    The only union input since then has been lobbying the Legislature for improved benefits.


  41. - Bigtwich - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 6:10 pm:

    =like social security (which our federal income tax dollars help bailout)=

    Not yet. Somewhere around 2032 if nothing changes.


  42. - RNUG - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 6:13 pm:

    == As a future beneficiary of a public pension, I think they should amend the constitution and try to reduce future accruals on Tier 1 pensions. ==

    The courts have already ruled that you can not unilaterally change the pensions; there is no maybe about it.


  43. - PublicServant - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 6:17 pm:

    ===Non pension fund participants were complaining about how unfair it was in the 70’s===

    Some were, some weren’t. The pensions aren’t some kind of diabolical plot. And given what happened to people with private pensions, the protections put in place for public pensions were and still are quite reasonable. The attempt by spineless politicians to complete their theft with SB1 in 2013 is exactly why the protections were put in place during the 1970 constitutional convention. So much for the unions having bought the pols huh? In addition, a lawsuit was brought by employees to force the state to pay what was required annually to fund the pensions. They sadly lost. The pension debt is not going away. It needs to be paid. The sooner people accept that fact, and quit trying to weasel out of paying the debt, the better off we will all be.


  44. - Christopher - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 7:03 pm:

    RNUG, thank you for correcting my errors and explaining the facts.


  45. - Southwest Sider - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 7:20 pm:

    Gushing praise for Lightfoot. But a promise, without effective funding, is not a rock solid promise. The picture isn’t pretty.


  46. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 7:30 pm:

    How about a tax on Trib subscribers who subsidize the editorial swill?


  47. - RNUG - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 7:32 pm:

    == They don’t even have to cap the pensions. Just get the politicians to pay into the system what they are supposed to. ==

    Actually, just get the politicans to stop insider gaming the system for themselves, like the one that got a second pension got one day of teaching. That outraged every employee that worked 30 to 45 years for their smaller pension.


  48. - Stuntman Bob's Brother - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 7:48 pm:

    ==If you’re stayin, you’re payin.==

    That’s the endgame, right there. So if you feel strongly that since you did not have a hand in creating this problem and should not be unduly burdened to clean it up, the door is that way. And since we can’t afford to build a 90,000 mile-long wall to keep everyone in, you’ll have that option for a long, long time. On the way out, don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya. Adios, Muchachos. Sayanaora, Senorita. And be thankful we let you live here for the duration with nominal income tax rates, but property and sales tax rates that are among the highest in the nation. It’s high time we adjusted those income tax rates up to match the others, consistency is a virtue. /s


  49. - Tim - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 8:58 pm:

    While a promise is a promise it’s disappointing that all of the Democrats and state workers on this blog don’t seem to realize that the math doesn’t Work and the new Governor has so many new social programs like having Medicaid cover elective surgery that even the new dollars if this passes aren’t going to cover past sins are instead going to commit new ones. And someone please tell me why I should pay more for state services I don’t use than someone that makes less than I do. It’s like telling me I should pay $8 for a hamburger when someone else gets to pay $2 for the exact same thing. I have choices when I retire and they won’t be to stay in the state I have lived in all my life and use my hard earned money to pay for other people’s sins. Bye Felicia.


  50. - Not Thanos - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 9:35 pm:

    -I have choices when I retire and they won’t be to stay in the state I have lived in all my life and use my hard earned money to pay for other people’s sims-

    Why go through the expense of moving? Illinois doesn’t tax retirement income and probably won’t in the foreseeable future.


  51. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 11, 19 @ 10:03 pm:

    Tim, you have a couple of things off kilter. First, the Feds tax the same way that the State is proposing to do. So their tax system is unfair? Tell the majority of states that also levy a tax. They do it, too. We are in a very small minority at the moment with our flat tax.

    Second, the math does work. Add a couple percent to income tax, and bingo, pensions are paid. You just don’t want to pay it.

    Lastly, you may have overlooked the many comments on this blog by state employees and others saying that they don’t like pension skipping and the adding of so much spending when there is a structural deficit. Look, and ye shall see.


  52. - Blue Dog Dem - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 5:43 am:

    I think it important that we honor existing pensions,
    I think it important that future pensions be negotiated or changed to reflect what is doable.

    I think it important to cut state provided services to help get this pension funding shored up.


  53. - Tim - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 6:34 am:

    Anonymous,

    Here’s a couple of things back at you. 1. TheFeds have to pay for national defense. Most of the money spent at the state level are for social programs or to overpay state workers. Big difference. 2. If the state legislators, who belong in jail for fraud and financial malfeasance had made the contributions they should have the problem wouldn’t be so huge.
    3. The math does not work. With their contribution and the state’s contribution and the earnings it is still not enough for people to retire in their fifties and take 30 years of payouts with 3% bumps and the system to stay afloat.
    4. It is not a solid investment of my money to pay more because people I didn’t vote for were financially inept and now all of us have to pay for their poor choices.

    It is not a worthwhile investment and as soon I can we will relocate out of Illinois. The people in power have made it not worth saving.


  54. - PublicServant - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 7:01 am:

    Sorry to see you go, Tim. /s


  55. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 7:14 am:

    Lightfoot also vocally supports a graduated income tax, so those are also beautiful words.

    “This is the kind of bold change that I hope we will make together,” she said yesterday about the CA that’s moving in the Senate.


  56. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 8:38 am:

    Tim, all your arguments come down to “I don’t want to pay for this,” or “it is someone else’s fault.” That’s fine, but it is not the argument of an adult or someone who wants to help the state succeed. Just don’t think we are fooled by your invocation of “math.”


  57. - anonymous - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 8:46 am:

    The bloated pension system has been corrupted. People are already leaving Chicago. They are leaving Illinois. If you break the taxpayers over pensions, at some point you won’t have anyone left to tax. What will you do then?


  58. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 9:16 am:

    What will you do now, if not increase taxes or cut programs to a point that the quality of life in Illinois is gone? People will leave then, too. At least JB has a plan. What is yours, other than your golden parachute to Alabama?

    The last Gov who had a plan was Quinn, who raised taxes enough to start paying down the debt. That worked. Let’s do more of that, rather than yelling at the clouds or spending without taxing, as per Rauner.


  59. - anonymous - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 9:58 am:

    Will the pensioners stay in Chicago/Illinois or will they leave once the taxes soar to pay for their pensions?


  60. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 10:07 am:

    –Will the pensioners stay in Chicago/Illinois or will they leave once the taxes soar to pay for their pensions?–

    You’re so well-informed on the subject that you don’t know that retirement income isn’t taxed?


  61. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 12, 19 @ 10:09 am:

    Dear anonymous…you have shown some lack of knowledge regarding representative democracy, contract law (both state and federal), and the Illinois constitution. Now you add tax policy to that. Pensions are not taxed, so pensioners will not be leaving for tax reasons.

    Again, you ignore our current predicament in favor of what might happen in decades. We are on the verge of junk status and our workforce has been decimated to the point of failure of various agencies and universities. Properly funding government and pensions is the only way out, since not even Rauner’s department heads could identify even one cut to make. Making Illinois a functioning state will make it even more economically attractive than it already is.


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