Friday, July 5, 2013

Illinois Pension Reform: 12 Commentaries and Analyses (with one exception)

1. Illinois Pension Reform Is without Legal and Moral Justification (May 29, 2012)

…To possess a right to a promised deferred compensation, such as a pension, is to assert a legitimate claim with all Illinois legislators to protect that right. There are no rights without obligations. They are mutually dependent. Fulfilling a contract is a legal and moral obligation justified by trust among elected officials and their constituents… Click here for link.

2. 12 pragmatic and legal reasons to reject Illinois pension reform (May 17, 2013)

“…Pension benefits are under siege for two reasons: opportunity and political motives… [Legislators] frame [the] larger discussion of whether the law provides states with a means to achieve a particular objective: the unilateral reduction of public pension benefits to avoid painful tax increases, service cuts, or both… For decades, states have treated pension systems as a credit card to pay for government services and avoid tax increases or service cuts…” (Eric M. Madiar, Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate (2012), Public Pension Benefits under Siege: Does State Law Facilitate or Block Recent Efforts to Cut the Pension Benefits of Public Servants?)…” Click here for link.

3. Constitutional Issues Concerning Senate Bill 2404 (May 8, 2013)  

Many of us do not support a decision to cut benefits and rights already guaranteed by the State and U.S. Constitutions that some Illinois politicians choose to ignore. SB 2404 “attempts to extract a pretense of agreement from individual public employees and retirees to the reduction of their vested pension rights...; [SB 2404] forces a retiree to choose between pension rights and health care coverage. [This] rests upon an assumption that the State has an unlimited right to exclude a public employee or retiree from participation in a health insurance program…” Click here for link.

4. Beware of the Trojan Horse that is SB 2404 (May 17, 2013)   

…Though there are thousands of retirees across the state who will sink deeply into abject poverty without their compounded COLA, partially-paid-for health care or both, Cullerton and the Coalition of Unions are offering a choice for us to keep our compounded COLA, which is constitutionally guaranteed, or diminish this benefit voluntarily for “access” to a state health care program (that is under payment revision) and one that we will most likely have to fully subsidize before long. What should help alleviate our anxiety about this Machiavellian/Orwellian choice is the IEA “would fight to protect the health insurance benefits of [its] members.” Now, don’t we feel much better...? Click here for link.

5. What is the Chicago Teachers’ Strike about? (A Response to the Chicago Tribune) (September 9, 2012)   

…It’s about the deliberate failure to address the root causes of the problems facing public education: the inequality of property taxes that primarily fund public schools in Chicago (and elsewhere in Illinois); and the poverty, dispossession and violence in Chicago and the self-perpetuating impact this has upon teaching and learning in Chicago public schools… Click here for link.

6. On the Convening of the 98th Illinois General Assembly Today and Senate Bill 1 (January 9, 2013) 

I watched and listened to the 98th Illinois General Assembly today: the invocations and the reciting and signing of the Oath of Office by the collective members of the House of Representatives to “solemnly swear [… to] support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and [to] faithfully discharge the duties of the office…to the best of [their] ability" (Article XIII, Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois)… Click here for link.

7. What might the Illinois General Assembly be up to in this Veto Session…? (November 9, 2012)

Many members of the Illinois General Assembly still want to renege on their legal and moral promises and responsibilities and, thus, increase current teachers’ contributions, raise retirement age, and cut or freeze benefits (SB 3932), such as the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), for not only current public employees but for retirees as well. These proposals were concocted by those who will never be affected by them… Click here for link.

8. Dear Diane Ravitch: Teachers need your help to fight another injustice (October 4, 2012)

…As you are aware, across the United States and elsewhere in the world, there is an unprecedented attack on public employees’ rights and benefits, especially teachers’ pensions. Those of us in Illinois have felt, as has the nation, the impact of the 2008-09 financial crises. State policymakers have responded to this catastrophe, not by addressing the structural deficits that are resultant of the lack of revenue growth needed to meet the increased cost of services, but by irrational public pension “reform.”  In one particular state, however, its economic austerities have also been intensified by decades of legislative irresponsibility and deceptiveness. The results are the unconscionable, unfunded liabilities of the Illinois public pension systems… Click here for link.

9. Tom Cross’ Letter in the Chicago Tribune: Political Opportunism (April 7, 2013)

You are a political opportunist who offers no solutions to the problems you and other legislators have created. You know why there is an increasing unfunded liability: it was caused primarily by legislators’ fraud; you know why important services have not been cut for decades: legislators stole money that was intended for the public employees’ pension funds to pay for those services; you know why pension costs have risen: legislators now owe public employees billions of dollars; past General Assemblies did not fully contribute to the pensions systems for nearly 60 years, and today’s dysfunctional General Assembly continues the habitual practice of ignoring the state’s flawed revenue system and assaulting the state’s public employees’ benefits and rights… Click here for link.

10. Regarding Representative Elaine Nekritz’s Recent Pension Reform Votes and Her Current HB 3411 (February 3, 2013)

…Your (and a few other legislators’) pension reform bills prove your prejudice and your sycophantic, political opportunism. Your (and a few other legislators’) unwillingness to examine fairly the best solutions in behalf of public employees, and every other citizen of Illinois, is a flagrant disregard of a policymaker’s oath of office… Click here for link.

11. Illinois Pension Reform: My address to members of the State Universities Annuitants Association, April 26th (2013)

…Let’s not forget how this economic catastrophe was created. The state’s unfunded liability has increased to approximately $100 billion. Nearly 50 percent of that figure was machinated by Illinois legislators. Today’s fiscal predicament is not the result of a financial problem that was unforeseen at the time of the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention. The unfunded liability is a consequence of continual legislative negligence, dishonesty and ineptitude… Click here for link.

12. What We Believe We Know about the Sustainability of the TRS Pension (June 10, 2011)

…How is the State going to maintain a fair and competitive pension benefit to attract and retain teachers?  Expressed differently, if the State and other essential stakeholders and actuaries believe that they must reform the teachers’ pension because the 9.4 percent contribution rate for teachers is not enough, will it be a “one-time” reasonable increase?  What other concessions will have to be made by public employees? Will agreed-upon pension reform also reflect the realities of the teaching profession which include the unique difficulties and sometimes extraordinary challenges that teachers confront each day, thereby considering a realistic retirement age? Most importantly, will the State, through transparency and an act of good will, finally keep its long-overdue promise to fully-fund the pension systems every year, and how will that be guaranteed? How can we trust Illinois policymakers based upon past history and the wealthy and powerful organizations that influence them...? Click here for link.


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