Thursday, January 10, 2013

Illinois economic decline continues as pension reform tanks (an editorial from The Daily Eastern News)

The best time the General Assembly had to hastily pass a lousy excuse for pension reform has come and gone — as the latest proposal did not even garner a single vote — which should be a meteor-sized sign that the public needs to have a voice in the matter.

Legislators convened in Springfield for about a week during its lame-duck session with many heavy topics to cover — namely guns, gay marriage and, of course, the Pandora’s Box that is pension reform.

The politically strategic purpose of a lame-duck session is to basically pass controversial legislation using the loose votes of legislators on the verge of leaving the General Assembly.

This means these fleeing legislators could choose to go against the wishes and concerns of their constituents without that queasy, guilt feeling of risking their chance of reelection.

However, this traditional method of trickery tanked miserably, and Gov. Pat Quinn was not able to magically save Illinois from its own “fiscal cliff” despite all of the meetings behind closed doors.

To be fair, House Bill 6258 is an improvement to other grisly forms of pension reform, such as one that popped up last year about giving Tier I members a choice between keeping their benefits unhindered or having health insurance, but pointing a cannon at the heart of state employees that is educators was not going to go unnoticed.

The proposal was able to make it out of committee, but even after dialing down the cost-shifting aspect aimed at schools it still couldn’t catch a chance at a vote.

With the spring session, the General Assembly will have another chance to try to resolve the approaching $100 billion beast that has been fed by irresponsible state action for decades — like a 13-year-old going wild with mom’s credit card.

Our advice to this complicated matter: legislators need to reach out and get the people involved and have a decent level of public approval instead of finding more and more ways to keep state employees in the dark. This could be as simple as hosting forums and including union leaders in the planning.

...There are a few other options that could help Illinois from diving into the fiscal abyss like concentrating on bringing in more revenue instead of cutting spending—maybe even taking a look at why the state doesn’t have a graduated income tax.

Pensions are a contract,* bound by a clause placed in the Illinois constitution more than 40 years ago. Renegotiating a contract does not bear fruit when it is a one-sided decision. The state saying “we are going to make you work longer for a less-appealing retirement nest egg so we can promise to pay the unfunded liability fiasco we put ourselves in” is not exactly the best sales pitch.

from The Daily Eastern News

Pensions are a contract*

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