A writer must “know and have an ever-present consciousness that this world is a world of fools and rogues… tormented with envy, consumed with vanity; selfish, false, cruel, cursed with illusions… He should free himself of all doctrines, theories, etiquettes, politics…” —Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?). “The nobility of the writer's occupation lies in resisting oppression, thus in accepting isolation” —Albert Camus (1913-1960). “What are you gonna do” —Bertha Brown (1895-1987).
The Quinn – Rauner debate and State Senator Toi Hutchinson by Fred Klonsky
Pat Quinn ignored my advice. The polls
show a close race between Quinn and Rauner. I suggested to Squeezy that
he could lock up a victory if he turns to the voters and say he was sorry for
going after public employee pensions, promise never to do it again and focus on
a revenue plan that makes the state’s wealthy pay their fair share.
If you watched the debate last night
you know that Quinn didn’t hear me. Or he wasn’t really listening. I
was surprised by one thing before I turned the boring thing off about ten
minutes in. Each of them was asked which member of the other party they could
Quinn picked Kirk Dillard, former state
chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council and who is no longer in
the legislature. Dillard lost to Rauner in the primary by 20,000 votes. The
state’s labor union election strategists dropped $4 million on that effort.
Rauner picked Democratic State Senator
Toi Hutchinson. That was a genuine surprise. Because Rauner wants to
turn our defined benefit public pension into a free-market ponzi scheme. And
Senator Hutchinson was one of the few courageous Illinois legislators who voted
no on Senate Bill 1, the pension theft.
Here is Senator
Hutchinson’s letter to constituents expelling her no vote:
December 5, 2013
week, I voted no on Senate Bill 1, an overreaching slashing of retirement
benefits for working men and women and retirees.Adding insult to injury, I am entirely
convinced that this plan is an obvious violation of the Illinois Constitution.
needs to control its spending, including its pension spending. But it’s unfair
and immoral to go raiding retirees’ savings to do it.All top policymakers agree that the
employees did nothing wrong, so insisting that they bear the brunt of fixing a
crisis caused by political irresponsibility is unacceptable.I will continue standing with working men and
women and retirees to ensure a fair and balanced plan is crafted.
several provisions in the bill (with information provided by the bipartisan
research firm CTBA) that I feel made this effort to reform pension funding
immoral and unconstitutional:
1. Change to COLA
benefits will not keep pace with inflation over time since only part of their
benefit will be tied to inflation. This is a direct reduction of benefits which
is specifically barred in Section 5, Article 13 of the Illinois Constitution.The monetary difference between the
pension benefit under current law versus the proposed changes increases over time,
meaning the longer a retiree lives the worse off they are. This will create a
larger pool of impoverished retirees who will then have to rely on Medicaid and
other social services to fill the gap at exactly the time when social services
continue to suffer devastating cuts.Reduction in retirement benefits is occurring at the same time as retiree
health care is being changed.
2. Changes to the state’s funding
may violate Federal Insurance Contributions Act (according to Buck Consultants,
the company used by TRS for their actuarial services). FICA requires the state
to provide a benefit that is at least equitable to Social Security. This same
thing was an issue with an earlier version of the pension bill. Eighty percent
of TRS retirees do not participate in Social Security.
pensions are all they have.The so called “funding guarantee” allows future lawmakers to vote to
change the payment schedule and reduce the annual payment if they so choose.
This is the very thing that caused the crisis in the first place.
1970 constitutional convention, the intention of the delegates was explicitly
stated. They wanted to enshrine in the constitution that the benefits that
workers agreed to as a condition of employment would be a contractual agreement
between the State and the employee. They wanted to ensure that public employees
had a basic protection against abolishing their rights completely or changing
the terms of their benefits after they’re hired.
that there would be a day in the future when the state would be in crisis and
they would not be able to rely on the wisdom of the legislature if they
determined that the easiest course of action would be to raid the pension fund.
For decades, that is exactly what happened. This past Tuesday, December 3, was
the day they knew was coming in 1970.
forward to listening to what our courts have to say about these reforms. In the
meantime, I will continue working toward a solution that includes fairness and
justice for the very people affected by this legislation. Workers who earned
these benefits over the years deserve nothing less than what was promised.
To hear my
comments during the floor debate about this issue,click here.
Thank you for
your time. I encourage you to visit my website to stay updated on this issue
and the many others facing Illinois.