Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Illinois Governor Rauner Gets $750,000 Tax Break/ Proposes Slashing Services to Middle Class and Poor by Robert Creamer




“Illinois' new GOP Governor, Bruce Rauner, will personally receive a $750,000 per year tax cut as a result of his decision not to continue the state's temporary 1.25% income tax surcharge that expired last year. His taxes were cut by an amount equal to the annual income of 14 families of four making the median income. And remember that after adjusting for inflation that median income number has not materially increased in about 35 years, since virtually all of the income growth resulting from the massive increase in worker productivity over that period has been siphoned off by speculators like Rauner. Rauner, who made $61 million in 2013 - or $29,000 per hour - is one of a small group of multi-millionaire speculators who would directly benefit enormously from lower state tax rates…

“[T]he wealthy have rigged the economic rules of the game to allow people like Bruce Rauner and the millionaires who got him elected to siphon off most of the wealth for themselves and leave middle income incomes flat.

“One of those rigged rules is found in the Illinois State Constitution. It would make sense to get much of the money needed to finance public services from those who have benefited most from the state's economy - rather than those whose incomes have been flat. You'd do that with higher income tax rates on millionaires and billionaires than the one charged for ordinary working people.

“But when the state constitution was rewritten in the 1970's, the wealthy organized to insert a provision preventing State Government from having progressive income tax rates. They wanted to keep their own share of taxes low, and to shrink state revenue in general by requiring that if tax rates go up for them they have to go up for ordinary people as well.

“That problem needs to be fixed with a Constitutional amendment that allows a progressive income tax - which of course Rauner adamantly opposes. But in the meantime it would still be possible to raise desperately-needed revenue in ways that mainly target the wealthy taxpayers by providing substantial personal exemptions in any new tax aimed at replacing the state's temporary income tax surcharge that expired last year. Rauner, of course, opposes any new state taxes and if you want to know why, just ask the mega-wealthy donors who financed his $63.9 million campaign to occupy the Governor's mansion. 

“Through his new state budget, Rauner intends to continue his life's work excavating the pockets of the poor and middle class in order to benefit himself and his wealthy associates. That's why Rauner serves as the personal embodiment - the poster boy -- for Wall Street's War on the Middle Class. Bruce Rauner may think that he is auditioning for a spot on the 2016 GOP ticket or a cabinet post in a Bush, Walker or Christie administration. 

“In fact he could easily become the national symbol of the trickle down economic theory that has failed to produce benefits for everyday Americans and is at the core of the economic philosophy of every one of the 2016 Republican Presidential aspirants and their billionaire backers.”

For the complete article, Click Here.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 25 - National Adjunct Walkout Day - A Day without Adjuncts by Collen Flaherty/ The Tall Task of Unifying Part-Time Professors by Kate Jenkins




“Adjuncts sometimes say they make up higher education’s invisible class. So an idea pitched on social media a few months ago struck a chord: What would happen if adjuncts across the country turned that invisibility on its head by all walking out on the same day? 

National Adjunct Walkout Day, for Feb. 25, immediately gained support, and adjuncts continue to use social media and other means of communication to plan what the protest will look like on their campuses. Some tenure-line faculty members also have begun to pledge support, and Canadian adjuncts recently signed on, as well.

“At the same time, some unions have advised members not to participate due to no-strike clauses in contracts or state laws that prohibit striking among public employees. Others object philosophically to the idea and have proposed alternative methods of highlighting concerns about their conditions of employment. And some adjuncts worry about being the only one on their campus to participate, or not participate…

Adjuncts elsewhere have proposed teach-ins, meaning they won’t walk out but will use the day to talk to their students about adjunct faculty concerns, such as relatively low pay, little institutional support, and the impact of their teaching conditions on student success…” 

“National Adjunct Walkout Day was proposed in October by an adjunct professor of writing at San Jose State University who wants to remain anonymous, citing concerns about job security and a desire for the protest not to have a designated leader…”

For the entire article, Click Here.


“…Adjunct professors' troubling working conditions—some qualify for food stamps, and most don't get health-insurance benefits—have led some to label them ‘the hyper-educated poor.’ In response to their treatment, adjunct professors on a growing number of campuses have voted to unionize.

“Colman McCarthy, an adjunct professor and former Washington Post columnist wrote an op-ed last year laying out the financial prospects of part-time professors, who, he wrote, ‘slog like migrant workers from campus to campus.’ McCarthy estimated that teaching eight courses per year—four in the fall and four in the spring—at a median wage would earn an adjunct $21,600… 

“The percentage of academics who work part-time has grown in recent decades. A 2009 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education indicated that 75.5 percent of instructors at institutions granting two- or four-year degrees held contingent jobs and/or were not on the track to tenure. 

“According to a recent article in Elle, the reverse was true 20 or 30 years ago, when 75 percent of professors held tenured or tenure-track positions. In the past, adjunct professorship could be thought of as the way dues were paid before attaining tenure, but these days many adjuncts who have worked for years or even decades cannot realistically expect to attain full-time professorship.

“Health-care benefits have also become a flashpoint among adjuncts since Obamacare was enacted. Many universities are struggling to maintain the status quo under the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers must offer health insurance to anyone working 30 hours or more per week—a requirement that some universities have responded to by reducing adjunct faculty hours

“Miranda Merklein, a former adjunct professor and now a part-time employee of the nonprofit New Faculty Majority, says she saw this happen firsthand. ‘One of my schools, in line with predatory colleges across the country, cut our teaching hours to deny adjuncts—the bulk of their teaching force—health insurance under the Affordable Care Act,’ she said...

“According to Alan Trevithick, a professor at three colleges and an activist, universities got used to paying for cheap labor and putting their money elsewhere. High-profile spending has turned into a higher-education arms race, with universities pouring money into buildings, technology, academic star power, and administrative costs. Trevithick stressed that he believes this is the most relevant point of all—that universities aren’t paying fair wages to adjuncts because they don’t want to, not because they can’t…”

For the entire article, Click Here.

“Memories of the university as a citadel of democratic learning have been replaced by a university eager to define itself largely as an adjunct of corporate power. Civic freedom has been reduced to the notion of consumption, education has been reduced to a form of training, and agency has been narrowed to the consumer logic of choice legitimated by a narrow belief in defining one's goals almost entirely around self-interests rather than shared responsibilities of democratic sociability…” (Henry A. Giroux, Higher Education and the New Brutalism). 

“We are the stoop laborers of higher education: adjunct professors. As colleges and universities rev for the fall semester, the stony exploitation of the adjunct faculty continues, providing cheap labor for America’s campuses, from small community colleges to knowledge factories with 40,000 students” (Colman McCarthy, Adjunct professors fight for crumbs on campus). 

University and College Adjunct Faculty Remuneration per Course in Illinois:

Medians compared
All Illinois: $2,700
All 4-year private not-for-profit: $3,000

Pay is based on three-credit courses.
A Sample:

Augustana College: $4,500 per course
Aurora University: $2,400 - $4,000 per course
Benedictine University: $2,250 - $2,750 per course
College of DuPage: $2,440 - $4,880 per course
Columbia College: $1,400 - $6,360 per course

DePaul University: $3,000 - $6,000 per course
Dominican University: $2,300 - $3,200 per course
Eastern Illinois University: $3,000 - $7,667 per course
Elgin Community College: $2,118 - $3,360 per course
Elmhurst College: $3,000 - $3,227 per course

Illinois Institute of Technology: $3,000 - $9,500 per course
Illinois State University: $3,500 - $6,400 per course
Illinois Wesleyan University: $3,000 per course
Lake Forest College: $6,500 per course
Lewis University: $2,700 - $3,000 per course

Loyola University: $4,000 - $12,000 per course
North Central College: $780 - $2,460 per course
Northeastern Illinois University: $5,475 per course
Northern Illinois University: $2,700 - $5,000 per course
North Park University: $2,680 -$4,800 per course


Northwestern University: $3,000 - $8,586 per course
Oakton Community College: $2,000 - $6,000 per course
Roosevelt University: $2,100 - $4,750 per course
Southern Illinois University: $3,000 - $6,000 per course
University of Chicago: $3,500 - $5,000 per course

University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: $2,625 - $8,400 per course
University of Illinois at Chicago: $4,000 - $8,000 per course
University of Illinois at Springfield: $5,500 per course
Waubonsee Community College: $1,875 - $2,100 per course
Wheaton College: $2,775 - $3,700 per course

The above information is from The Adjunct Project.

Friday, February 20, 2015

ILLINOIS PENSION LITIGATION/ BRIEF OF ISEA, RSEA, HEATON AND HARRISON PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES




Opening Statements from Oral Arguments:


The Nature of the Action

“…The plaintiffs allege that Public Act 98-0599 diminishes the pension benefits of members of State retirement systems in violation of the Pension Protection Clause (Article XIII, §5) of the Illinois Constitution, which provides that such benefits ‘shall not be diminished or impaired.’ The defendants admit that the Act diminishes pension benefits. Their sole defense is that the Pension Protection Clause contains an implied or unstated exception that would allow the General Assembly to diminish pension benefits as an exercise of its police powers or reserved sovereign powers. The parties tiled cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether the Pension Protection Clause contains such an implied or unstated exception. Ruling on those dispositive motions, the circuit court held that the Pension Protection Clause contains no such exception. The circuit court held that the Act is unconstitutional, found the Act inseverable, and awarded judgment to the plaintiffs. The issue of whether the Pension Protection Clause contains an applicable exception is raised on the pleadings… 

Introduction

“When the drafters of the Illinois Constitution adopted a stand-alone clause specifically protecting public pensions, they had this very sort of case in mind. They wanted to ensure that public workers would receive promised pension benefits, regardless of fiscal circumstances. To that end, the drafters included within the Pension Protection Clause a provision prohibiting the legislature from diminishing pension benefits. 

“Public Act 98-0599 would diminish public pension benefits in disregard of that constitutional limitation on legislative power. The defendants nevertheless seek to justify the Act on the ground that it will save the State billions of dollars. According to the Act's plain terms, those billions of dollars will come from the pockets of the plaintiffs and other public sector employees and retirees.

“That particular method of managing the State's finances is expressly prohibited by our State's Constitution. This appeal thus raises an issue of fundamental importance: the primacy of the Illinois Constitution over considerations of political expediency. 

“The Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution prohibits the unilateral diminishment of pension benefits: ‘Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired’ (Illinois Constitution Art. XIII, §5). 

“The Pension Protection Clause was specifically designed to prohibit the diminishment of pension benefits based on precisely the claim of fiscal necessity that the defendants now advance. The drafters of the Constitution knew that the State had historically failed to adequately fund its pension systems, and they were concerned that fiscal exigencies would be used as a justification for reducing pension benefits unless those benefits received constitutional protection. The delegates who supported the Clause recalled that ‘civil service employees who retired never had their pension altered or amended, even during those trying times during the days of the Depression,’ and explained that the Clause was intended to protect pensioners ‘irrespective of the financial condition of a municipality or even the state government.’ Record of Proceedings, Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention, Verbatim Transcripts (July 21, 1970) ("Record of Proceedings"), at 2926 (SA 7) (remarks of Delegate Kemp). 

“This Court has repeatedly recognized that the Pension Protection Clause means what it says. As stated by this Court, the Pension Protection Clause makes it ‘clear that if something qualifies as a benefit of the enforceable contractual relationship resulting from membership in one of the State's pension or retirement systems, it cannot be diminished or impaired.’ Kanerva v. Weems, 2014 IL 115811, ¶ 38. The language of the Pension Protection Clause is ‘plain’ and may not be rewritten ‘to include restrictions and limitations that the drafters did not express and the citizens of Illinois did not approve.’ Id., ¶ 41. In light of the Clause's plain meaning and intended purpose, ‘this court has consistently invalidated amendments to the Pension Code where the result is to diminish benefits.’ McNamee v. State, 173 III. 2d 433, 445 (1996). 

“The defendants concede, as they must, that the Act diminishes pension benefits. (See, e.g., R. C1349, ¶ 43.) Nevertheless, the defendants argue that the Act should be upheld as an exercise of the State's ‘police powers.’ This attempt to justify the Act has no valid legal basis because the Pension Protection Clause contains no exception for an exercise of ‘police powers.’ Indeed, the Act represents exactly what the drafters of the Clause intended to foreclose by adopting a stand-alone constitutional provision to safeguard public pensions against diminishment. To accept the defendants' ‘police powers’ exception would directly undermine that constitutional purpose. 

“In a tacit concession that their interpretation of the Pension Protection Clause is meritless, the defendants alternatively suggest that the Clause itself is an unconstitutional relinquishment of the State's sovereignty. (Def. Br. at 40-45.) That novel claim fares no better. Contrary to the defendants' extreme position, the Pension Protection Clause does not compromise the State's sovereignty. Rather, the Clause is a valid limitation on the General Assembly's authority. Like other constitutional limits on legislative power, it cannot be overcome by the defendants' claim of fiscal necessity. 

“In the final analysis, this case does not present, as the defendants argue, a balancing ‘between individual contractual rights and the State's sovereign duty to provide for the general welfare.’ (Def. Br. at 5.) Rather, it presents a straightforward conflict between a constitutional limitation on legislative power and a legislature that deems the limitation inexpedient. It falls to this Court to uphold the promise of the Pension Protection Clause and, with it, the supremacy of the Illinois Constitution over legislation, however well-intentioned or politically expedient, that exceeds the constitutional bounds of legislative power…”