Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pension Plan Platitudes: Big Question Marks over Quinn, Rauner Plans from Chicago Tonight WTTW

“Pension reform is one of the biggest issues facing the state. Gov. Pat Quinn has passed pension reform legislation, which could be ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court. If that were to happen, Quinn has yet to detail what he would do. As for GOP challenger Bruce Rauner, he proposes shifting workers to a 401k-style, defined contribution system while maintaining all benefits accrued to date. Rauner hasn’t detailed how his pension reform plan would be paid for. Ralph Martire, executive director at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Bruce Dold of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board, and John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, discuss the their pension reform proposals and what voters need to know in order to make an informed decision about where each candidate stands on the issue.”

Chicago Tonight: Pension Debate Goes AWOL in the Governor’s Race by Fred Klonsky

“There were Ralph Martire, Dan Montgomery, Bruce Dold and John Tillman to talk about pension reform and the Illinois Governor’s race on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. Host Carol Marin laughingly called them the Alumni Club because they have been on the show so often to discuss the issue.

“It was Marin who pointed out that the issue has been absent from serious discussion by either candidate during the course of their campaigns. Democrat Pat Quinn has not said what he will do when the Illinois Supreme Court rules, as expected, that Senate Bill 1 violates the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution. Republican Bruce Rauner will not discuss the details of his proposal to turn current public employee pensions into a 401K defined contribution plan. 

“Even Marin was in no mood to listen to the right-wing Illinois Policy Institutes’ John Tillman lecture us with his free market philosophizing once again. She cut him off the moment he started. She might rethink why she keeps inviting this phony to the program. In fact, the only one who addressed the issue was Martire, who once more seemed to be the patient school teacher who reminded the viewers and voters that Illinois has no pension benefit problem. It has a tax and revenue problem.

“Pension benefits are not the problem. Neither candidate has a solution since neither candidate addresses how to raise revenue. This should have been the point that Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery made. But Montgomery didn’t and he won’t since his organization takes a position of uncritical support of Governor Quinn.

“Voters are left with making a choice between two candidates who will not speak to the issue of pensions. The irony is that the issue may decide the election. A few thousand still-angry state employees may well be the margin of victory. An Illinois governor’s election with no discussion of pensions. Disgusting.
“I couldn’t help but notice that at the end of the segment, while the alumni club members were still chatting away, Marin walked away. It was as if she had had enough. I resonated.”

From Fred Klonsky’s Blog.  


  1. I think Quinn is sadly our best option. I think the Illinois Supreme Court has sent a strong message to our governor and legislators. You make a contract, you honor have a comply with it..

  2. Fred and Glen -

    Marin literally ran away while shushing them as the next interview got underway. And who could blame her? The only real numbers provided were by the same guy who's been trying to explain them for years: Ralph Martire. If Marin thinks she's in an echo chamber, think what poor Ralph must feel like.

    Meanwhile, Montgomery openly states that Quinn must know it will take the unions to get something done in Illinois about pensions. Is he bargaining again? Even after there Kanerva decision? Doesn't make me feel any better.

    Also, Tribune editor Dold tries claiming that lots of companies have switched to 401k programs without impacting current retirees on pensions. Of course, this flies in the face of the pressures on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and its $billions in deficits after coping with companies that dump pensions in favor of 401k's...or the plight of current public retirees in Detroit.

    Appropriately, the chief of the Editorial Board is seated next to his philosophical ally, Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute. But we always knew what the Editorial Board was promoting, didn't we?

    And Tillman? He bounces back and forth between "we want to give public workers 401 k's so they can manage their own futures," and the opposite: "It is unfair to expect taxpayers to fund there deals that the taxpayers no longer enjoy." Huh? Remember, Tillman came to the forefront of the Illinois Policy Institute by leading the charge against union barbers that made more than those barbers who were not. Note: he never once has recommended that a worker or group of them make a better wage. He'll always seek the least for those who work...

    1. If Ralph Martire was sitting in the middle, he would have been humming that Stealers Wheels song to himself: “…Clowns to the left of me; jokers to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle...”

      Regarding Tillman:

      Tillman’s IPI plan would freeze defined benefits going forward and replace the state's defined benefit program with a defined contribution plan whereby the state would contribute 7 percent and an employee would contribute 8 percent into an account that would be managed by the employee similar to a 401k plan. The IPI plan would suspend the pension COLA of retirees indefinitely, or until the pension systems are 100 percent funded, which is said to be similar to the plan implemented by Rhode Island: raise the retirement age to 67 for new employees and incrementally raise the age for current employees based on their years of service and age. The IPI plan would also shift the normal pension costs to school districts, colleges and universities.

    2. Regarding Bruce Dold and the Chicago Tribune:

      What we will never see published in the jaundiced Chicago Tribune is a full, investigative story regarding the state’s public retirement systems and why they are not responsible for the state’s budget deficit or for the underfunding of public sector funds. Here’s a lead for the story: State employees have contributed responsibly and consistently to their pension funds. Most of them will not receive Social Security when they retire, and they will have worked for lower wages and without “corporate bonuses” throughout their career for the promise of a guaranteed pension.

      What we will never see published is an editorial or story about the state’s underfunding of the pensions for more than 60 years, exorbitant interest payments for the debts incurred, the resultant tax breaks for the wealthy and the decreasing of state revenues, and the increasing of corporate fraud and greed that have largely contributed to the budget problems in Illinois.

      What we will never see published is an editorial or story about today’s and past Illinois legislators who diverted the state’s “constitutional and obligatory” contributions to other “operating expenses” and “special” interests for several decades; that the public pension systems of Illinois have depended mostly upon income from its own responsible investments and contributions from its membership throughout those years; and that it is an injustice to break the trust among individuals and the pension systems into which they have elected to participate.

      What we will never see published and investigated in the Chicago Tribune are the avarice, arrogance, irresponsibility, recklessness, corruption, and cronyism of the corporate and financial sector’s chief executives, the benefactors of some of the so-called Illinois policymakers.

    3. Tillman and Illinois Policy Institute:

      “IPI is an anti-union, anti-public education lobbying group dedicated to the privatization of public schools and the elimination of public employee pensions. The Illinois Policy Institute is funded by conservative activists like the Koch brothers, the people behind the attacks on education employees in Wisconsin" (the IEA).

    4. Gee, I wonder what kind of retirement package Dold and Tillman have??? No doubt, it's just Social Security and a poorly funded 401(k). My heart bleeds for them.