Friday, September 28, 2012

Why We Should Vote “NO” on the Proposed House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 49 (HJRCA 49)

Most likely, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago (Illinois Is Broke), the Chicago Tribune, and their ilk will be spending exorbitant amounts of money to deceive the public regarding the purpose of House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 49 (HJRCA 49) this fall. They will tell the public that the amendment’s purpose is to eliminate abuse of the public pension systems.
Will they tell the public that the few abusers of the public pension systems were not teachers, firemen, policemen and other state employees, but rather lobbyists, administrators, and legislators' cronies; that the abuse of the systems is less than one-tenth of a percent; that these few abuses of the system are not representative of the whole of which they constitute? No they won’t.
The Civic Committee, the Chicago Tribune, et al. will not tell the public that their purpose is to fallaciously instigate a belief that these few abuses are relevant to the State’s perpetuated debt and revenue problems; that their articles and advertisements are for the purpose of stoking the blind and misinformed anger of the people of Illinois, and that the Illinois General Assembly is the essential cause of the State’s chronic budget problems today.
Moreover, the Civic Committee and the Chicago Tribune will not tell the public that their articles and advertisements for HJRCA 49 are a diversionary attempt to shift the blame for the State’s irresponsibility and incompetence to the public employees’ constitutionally-guaranteed pension plan; that public employees’ money for their pension plans have been stolen for decades to pay for services in Illinois; that all citizens have benefitted by the theft of the public employees’ pension systems throughout the State of Illinois.

Why else should we vote “NO” on this proposed amendment to the State Constitution besides the above-mentioned deceptions and thievery?
·          “HJRCA 49 does not reduce the state systems’ current $83 billion unfunded liability;

·         “HJRCA 49 fails to address the real fiscal issue caused by the state’s outsized pension debt—how to amortize the $83 billion debt owed to the five state-sponsored retirement systems in a feasible way;

·         “Implementing a Constitutional Amendment that hinders the ability of legislators to institute benefit increases would make it nearly impossible to rectify the problems associated with the reduced benefit tier that lawmakers created in 2010 [with SB 1946];

·         “The uncertainty surrounding language used in HJRCA 49 is of extra concern because once passed, changing any aspect of it would require yet another Constitutional amendment. Given that there are nearly 7,000 local governments in Illinois, the impact of the supermajority-voting requirement could be costly in both the amount of time legislators will have to spend on pension benefit analysis” (Center for Tax and Budget Accountability);

·         Most significantly, as stated by the State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA), HJRCA 49 “would grant unprecedented powers to government that will undermine protections contained in the pension protection clause [Article XIII, Section 5] and eliminate the uniform laws that now exist for [all] state employee benefits and obligations in the Illinois Pension Code” (Letter from SUAA, April 25, 2012).

Public employees have rights that must be protected like everyone else. They are promised certain retirement benefits. They have paid faithfully into their pension plan; they expect and plan their lives based upon these promises. Most teachers are not eligible for Social Security, and those who are will receive a pittance.

“The very idea that [the state can] hold [public employees’ lives], or the means of [their] living, or any material right essential to the enjoyment of life, at the mere will of another [is] intolerable in any country where freedom prevails” (John Locke, Two Treatises of Government). No justice is accomplished when subordinating or diminishing public employees’ rights through an amendment on account of decades of legislators’ negligence, irresponsibility and corruption.

What is at stake is not a potential adjudication of conflicting claims that public employees will have against policymakers who want unfair changes to public employees’ benefits and rights, but to respect the public employees’ contractual and constitutional promises because they are legitimate rights and moral concerns not only for public employees, but for every citizen in Illinois: for any unwarranted acts of cheating a person’s guaranteed rights and benefits will violate interests in morality and ethics and the basic legal principles of both the State and United States Constitutions that protect every one of us.

For more information, please read: House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 49… and Illinois Pension Reform Is without Legal and Moral Justification

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