Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Governor Rauner’s Budget Proposal and What He Left Out of His Speech on Ash Wednesday

It’s “dust to dust” for labor unions and for minimum-wage workers who have to wait seven years for $10 an hour. Rauner continued his attacks on labor unions today and his advocacy for merit pay, charter schools, and “local empowerment zones.”  Nothing was said about the state’s budget problems driven by the far more expensive and wasteful corporate subsidies that Illinois policymakers have been doling out for years. “Tax breaks cost Illinois taxpayers some $2 billion annually,” according to Roberta Lynch, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.

What Rauner did not say in today’s speech (besides ignoring the letter “g” while using too many participles) 

The following is a breakdown from the Illinois Retired Teachers Association on Rauner's Budget Report:

Overall Rauner budget spends $31.5 billion. This is a reduction from the current FY15 appropriation of $35.6 billion. It relies on no new taxes or borrowing. To remain balanced, it requires major substantive cuts to pensions, group health insurance, Medicaid and other human services spending. The Governor’s budget cuts funds to local governments as well as to transit districts in the RTA region and downstate Illinois. It also cuts Constitutional Officers, the Judiciary and the GA by 10%.

Pension Reform:

Rauner will propose enrolling only state employees and teachers into the state's "Tier 2" pension plan as of July 1st of this year.  Already earned benefits will be frozen on that date, except for public safety employees like state police. Employees will be given the option to take a lump sum pension buyout for those who want to convert to a 401(k) plan with employer matching.

In addition, no further state funding will be provided for the Chicago Public Schools' pension funds, or the TRIP program, which currently provides a state match to teacher contributions to retirement health insurance costs. State funding for the College Insurance Program will also be eliminated.

The governor also wants to reduce the state employee group health insurance approximately by $400 million, which is a $600-700 million reduction from expected costs for next fiscal year. Rauner wants to increase the universities' share of group health costs (fixed at $45 million since the 1990s) and Increase employee "cost sharing," by negotiating in upcoming contract negotiations an additional charge for employees with more than two dependents and by negotiating other reductions with the unions.

30-year savings: $125 billion
Unfunded liability reduced $25 billion on first day of plan.
Actuaries estimated $3.2 billion for FY 16, but Gov’s staff is using more conservative $2.2 billion.

FY 16 Certification
FY 16 Gov Rauner
% Change

Medicaid and Human Services:

The Governor is also proposing $1.5 billion reduction to Healthcare and Family Services budget. First, he will cut by not providing money for any non-revenue neutral component of the Medicare-Medicaid Alignment Initiative (MMAI) and the Nursing Home Residents' Managed Care Rights Law ($221.5 million). He will also eliminate any money for hospital payments for Medicare ($270 million) and nursing homes ($210 million). He is also eliminating Institutions for Mental Disease commonly referred to as Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Facilities ($50.4 million). He will no longer fund non-reimbursable services for those with hemophilia ($4.3 million) or renal dialysis ($183.0 thousand). The Governor is also cutting funding for the breast and cervical cancer programs in the state.

Human Services Agencies
There will be cuts to all aspects of Human Service Agencies including:

Alcoholism & Substance Abuse
50% cut to criminal justice services
20% reduction of maintenance services for clients
20% reduction to global treatment for non-Medicaid services
20% reduction to child domiciliary services
10% reduction to heroin addiction treatment services
10% reduction to recovery homes
A reduction of 25,434 staff members

Developmental Disabilities:
Elimination of the following programs:

Best Buddies, Project Autism, Arc of Illinois, epilepsy services, dental services, and respite care
A reduction of 451 staff members
10% reduction to State Operated Developmental Centers
The closure of Murray Developmental Center has been put on hold and no other facilities are scheduled to close.

Family & Community Services:
Elimination of the following programs: 
Funeral and Burial, Supportive Housing Services, Homeless Youth Services, Refugees Social Services, Welcoming Centers, Immigrant Integration Service, Emergency Food Program, Children's Place, Teen Parents Services, Addiction Prevention Services, West Side Health Authority Crisis Intervention, Teen Reach, and SSI Advocacy Services.

The proposed budget includes FY 15 supplemental funding for Child Care Assistance Program. The FY 16 proposed budget includes a number of suggestions on reducing the costs of the program including: increasing the parents’ co-pays, freezing the intake of children over the age of 5, and eliminating assistance payments for in-home relative care.

$23 million will be cut from the Early Intervention Program through changing eligibility requirements. Comprehensive Community Services will receive a $5.6 million reduction
Infant Mortality will receive a $6.7 million reduction

Mental Health:
·         Elimination of the following programs: Child and Youth Mental Health Lockout Services, Psychiatric Leadership grant, Non-Medicaid fee-for-services, Non-Medicaid community hospital inpatient services, SMURFs, and Non-Medicaid housing assistance
·         OMB states that DHS will still comply with the Williams Consent Decree.
Rehabilitation Services:
·         The DON score will be changed to remove people from services
·         Limits the population being served to those who have a physical impairment (which was the original intent of the program)
·         Accelerates change to a universal assessment tool.
The Governor is also proposing a cut to the Community Care Program by increasing the Determination for need of Service score from 29 to 39, implementing an income threshold, and decreasing services by one hour per week. Adult Protective Services, the Ombudsman program, and Meals on Wheels will all likely see a slight increase in appropriations to pay for maintenance.
DCFS will see cuts to programs for youth who are 18 years old or older. There will also be a reduction of 271 staff members.
Funds will also be cut from public health which will result in reduced funding of the Breast & Cervical Cancer Screening Program, AIDS/HIV services, the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Program, Multiple Sclerosis Task Force, and mobile health care services.
The Governor is recommending increasing General State Aid and Early Childhood Education, but these increases are being paid for by zeroing out the following line items: Advance Placement, Arts/Foreign Language, Agricultural Education, After School Matters, Parent Mentoring Program, Lowest Performing Schools, funding to East St. Louis SD 189, Regional Safe Schools, Children’s Mental Health Partnership, National Board Certified Teachers, Tax Equivalency Grants, Teach for America, and Targeted Initiatives. The Governor is also recommending a lump sum appropriation for agency operations. The lump sum would reduce funding for ISBE operations by $2.0 million.
While increasing k-12, the Governor has proposed a 31% cut to all public universities. This is a $387 million reduction to those items, and an average 5.7% reduction in total spending for all universities. With respect to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, GRF funding is cut 50%, and almost all IBHE grants are eliminated including the Washington Center Intern Program, the Quad Cities Grad Center, Grow Your Own Teachers, and the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty Program. The University Center of Lake County is cut by 11% from FY15.
The Monetary Award Program in the Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s budget will be the same as last year, but funding for the Illinois Math and Science Academy’s will be reduced by 7.9%

The Governor’s proposed budget for the Illinois Department of Corrections includes an overall increase of $168,887. to all funds, and is largely presented as a lump sum. The proposed FY 16 budget does not include any facility closures or anticipated consolidations of existing correctional centers. This amount includes $8.6 million to reopen Joliet Youth Facility as a mental health center.
Transportation Funding:
The governor is cutting both the Downstate Public Transit Fund and Public Transportation Fund as well as eliminating the Inter-city Passenger Rail Fund and subsidizing reduced fares for state employees traveling on Amtrak.
He is also eliminating the Pace Paratransit ($8.5 million Road Fund/GRF in FY 15) program and the RTA Reduced Fare program ($17.6 million Road Fund in FY 15; $34.1 million Road Fund/GRF in FY 14).
Most other governmental agencies will be given lump sum appropriations to work with.
The Governor is reducing funding for the State Employee Group Health Insurance program by increasing the universities’ share of group health costs and increased employee “cost sharing” negotiated in upcoming contract negotiations.
The Governor also wants to end the Broadband Network subsidy offered to schools, libraries, and universities, particularly in rural areas of the state.
The Governor is proposing the elimination of a budget for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and getting rid of the Historic Preservation Agency and shifting historic sites’ costs onto tourism funds. The LIHEAP is also not being funded. A new agency, the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, is being also created in this budget, funded through the Historic Sites Fund.
The Department of Natural Resources will have to lay off about 1/3 of their conservation police force. Despite a slight cut to museums, all will remain open. State parks will be fully funded.
Funding for the Department of Military Affairs remains level to FY15 with the exception of an $800,000 cut and transfer into the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, and a cut to appropriations for the Veterans’ Assistance Commission of Cook County. Lincoln’s ChalleNGe is fully funded for FY16.
The Governor’s recommended budget for the Department of Insurance in FY16 increases over the current year due to the “Get Covered Illinois” program. This program was originally funded federally, but this federal money is running out. The DOI will have funding to use towards the program in case funding is needed for the program that the federal government cannot provide.


  1. from Senator Kimberly Lightford:

    Dear Friends,

    Today, we heard Governor Bruce Rauner's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016. Sadly, the governor's address did not outline a responsible and compassionate path forward.

    It is vital for any state budget to strike a balance – balance between common sense funding necessities for those who need critical services and ensuring that Illinois is fiscally sound and competitive. To achieve a competitively and compassionately balanced budget, Illinois must focus on jobs, education options, services, and above all, people.

    Not funding education at a 100 percent rate again this year is simply unacceptable. Ninety-nine percent funding would not be enough, so the proposed 95 percent is certainly not adequate. Furthermore, the possibility of slashing the state’s child care program, worker salaries, Medicaid, and other critical services, while instituting sharper tax cuts for CEOs will not move Illinois forward. It will only lend itself to further alienation and degradation of those unlucky enough to be ill, young, elderly or poor.

    Yes, government leaders in positions of power hold many responsibilities, one of which is ensuring a thriving private sector, attractive to business and industry – but not to be forgotten is the awesome responsibility of protecting and serving the people. We cannot fall prey to the idea that we can bring prosperity to Illinois by proposing a budget void of a responsible level of help for the needy. This is not a balanced or feasible approach.

    I still hold hope that I can work with this administration to institute a common sense budget relying on justified reform and facilitating job creation.

    Kimberly Lightford
    Assistant Majority Leader

  2. Rauner's agenda is not Rauner's doing. Rick Scott in Florida, where I presently live, and Chris Christie in New Jersey where my good friend and retired teacher lives, are doing nearly identical things. This is a corporate financed coup of American government. The term is plutocracy. Plutocracies come in various guises and are presently wearing the mask of "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
    Political donors are actually purchasers. Corporations are people with guaranteed religious rights.

  3. CHICAGO – In response to today’s budget address by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, the Chicago Teachers Union released the following statement:

    Gov. Bruce Rauner famously said that he’s “been successful at everything [he’s] ever done.” Today’s budget address is no different. Gov. Rauner wants to be successful in destroying vitally necessary public services, including the state’s university system, drug treatment and breast cancer services, public transit, and the Department of Children and Family Services. Evidently, Gov. Rauner wants to be successful at destroying Illinois’ economy, too. The lessons from Greece, Ireland, Italy, and Kansas all show that public government austerity budgets don’t work to fix the economy and unnecessarily and dramatically exacerbate human suffering. The experiences in California and Minnesota show the clearest alternative forward: raise revenue from those most able to pay and the state’s economy can grow and prosper. This contrast points to the real issue: Gov. Rauner most wants to be successful at shoveling money to himself and his wealthy supporters. The tax cuts Bruce Rauner wholeheartedly supports overwhelmingly benefit the privileged few at the top of Illinois’ economy; the vast majority gains practically nothing and loses dramatically. Rauner’s thoroughly disproven voodoo economics is an unacceptable attack on the working families of Illinois, and in his zero-sum world, “success” means failure for everyone else.

    Budgets are statements of priorities and morals, and it is clear where the Governor fails on both.

    The Republican lawmaker claimed that this is an honest budget and that it’s make or break time. But that’s a deeply dishonest statement and his solution is evidently to break the state. He was crystal clear: any consideration of revenue will only be tied to draconian reforms that harm working people. Like his good friend Rahm Emanuel, the governor is attempting to capitalize on a manufactured crisis rooted in his unwillingness to raise revenue from those who are most able to pay...

  4. CHICAGO – In response to today’s budget address by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, the Chicago Teachers Union released the following statement:

    …There are two clear realities of this budget proposal. The first is that budget cuts will hit every segment of government operations, even those that get an “increase” in funding. The education funding “hike” comes at the expense of other public services on which students depend. Research is clear that out-of-school factors have huge impacts on students’ ability to learn and grow during school. Thousands of students across the city have transportation challenges, so cuts to public transportation mean that more students will miss days of attendance, negatively impacting their achievement. Rauner’s cuts to mental health only exacerbate the effects of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s cuts to mental health clinics. Students suffer as a result, as their traumas go untreated, as workloads increase for already over-taxed school counselors, and as family members are sent to jail rather than to treatment. The Governor’s cuts to Medicaid ensure that students’ loved ones, often the family’s primary caregiver and source of support, will lose access to healthcare; consequently these students’ ability to be in school and concentrate when there declines. In a Rauner budget, students will be clearly harmed.

    The second reality is that this budget proposal is primarily an attack on women and people of color. In Chicago, where 85% of public school students are low-income 90% of learners are students of color, Rauner’s budget is a clear attack on already-decimated communities on the South and West sides of the city. In what can only be deemed a “surprise,” the governor did the same thing to women that he blamed Pat Quinn for: slashing public services and decimating good jobs. Mr. Rauner’s proposal to slash the retirement security of active teachers is a direct attack on women and people of color. Women make up 75% of Chicago Teachers Pension Fund members and 60% of Chicago Municipal Fund members.

    Furthermore, the proposed pension cuts come on top of school budget and job cuts that have decimated the percentage of Black teachers in the Chicago Public Schools. These combined measures most directly impact neighborhoods like Roseland, Mt. Greenwood, Morgan Park, Chatham, South Shore, Auburn-Gresham, and South Chicago. Public sector jobs undergird the economies in these neighborhoods, and as a result of his budget, these neighborhoods, already devastated by unemployment, foreclosures, and the associated dramatic loss of wealth, are further sacrificed to ideology.

    There is only one equitable solution to Illinois’ budget: generate revenue from those most able to pay. A report issued this week from the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability pointed to the real impact of the reduction of the state’s income tax level – a massive transfer of wealth to the richest Illinoisans. Illinois is “broke” because the governor and his biggest supporters do not pay their fair share. The solutions continue to be clear. Rauner should advocate for a surcharge on millionaires. He should support a graduated income tax. He should propose eliminating tax loopholes that allow corporations to avoid hundreds of millions in Illinois taxes. He should assist municipalities’ finances by pledging to withhold state business from any bank that refuses to renegotiate toxic interest swaps. The governor provided practically no detail and proposed none of these revenue proposals.

    Illinois’ success depends on the collective support of public services to fuel the entire state economy. Taken collectively, Gov. Rauner’s proposal only worsens Illinois’ economic challenges and unnecessarily harms working people across the state. Evidently, successfully shaking up Springfield means more of the same discredited 1980s economic theory to benefit the wealthy. Way to go, ‘overnor.

  5. SPRINGFIELD – In response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget address today, IFT President Dan Montgomery released the following:

    Rather than address revenue in a responsible way, today Governor Rauner recommended decimating public services for middle class families in order to pay for massive tax breaks for the very wealthy.

    Reported cuts to higher education resulting in higher tuition.
    Unconstitutional gutting of pension funding.
    Slashing health insurance for retired teachers.
    Eliminating the social service net for foster children, the homeless, developmentally disabled, and mentally ill.

    These are all of the things Governor Rauner would do before asking the richest 1% or corporations to pay a penny more.

    It’s not only unconscionable; much of it is illegal.

    We need responsible government that serves everyone, not austerity for working families and tax savings for the rich. The Governor’s suggestion that this is the only option is patently false.

    And since he is so eager to talk about "fair share,” we’d suggest the Governor accept the crystal clear mandate sent to him by an overwhelming majority of voters and demand that millionaires pay their fair share to bring an extra $1 billion into our schools. We’d encourage the Governor to ask the 70% of Illinois companies who pay no income tax to pay their fair share. We’d close the loopholes that currently allow corporations to enjoy $2 billion in tax giveaways while working families and our most vulnerable citizens shoulder an unfair share of the burden.

    Even while balancing the budget on the backs of local communities and the middle class, Governor Rauner is painting a false picture of education funding. His proposal to "increase funding" is achieved only by folding in line-item appropriations already in the State Board of Education’s budget. What’s more, his plan still doesn’t meet the recommended minimum level needed to educate our children.

    It’s a disingenuous shell game.

  6. Immediately following the Governor's budget address,Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan issued this statement reflecting the deep cuts Rauner is proposing:

    “After more than a year, the citizens of this state finally heard from Gov. Rauner concerning our state’s financial challenges. It is clear his solutions are to simply cut deeply into programs that ensure the economic security of the state’s middle class. As other states have found out, slash and burn budgeting is short-sighted and dangerous.

    “He has spent much of his first few weeks on a right-wing, ideological binge, attempting to make his case slashing modest programs boosting injured and unemployed workers, dropping local wage and benefit standards, and attacking state workers and their unions. While this may be a political message he wants to send, it is not constructive in solving our state’s financial woes. These proposals do little to improve our state finances, but will certainly undermine middle class economic security. His budget proposal sticks to this script.

    “We have a revenue problem that needs to be addressed. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability issued a report yesterday showing how the phase down of the personal income tax disproportionately benefits the highest income earners and creates more income inequality in Illinois.

    “The Governor is also silent on the 70 percent of companies that pay no corporate income tax and more than one billion in corporate tax breaks that cost our citizens each year. Now is the time for real solutions, not political rhetoric.”

  7. The We Are One Illinois coalition of unions that represent public employees issued this statement:

    "Under his proposed cuts to pensions earned and paid into by teachers, caregivers, correctional officers and other public employees, Gov. Rauner would rob the retirement security of those who dedicate their lives to public service—most of whom aren't eligible for Social Security, many of whom risk their physical safety to serve.

    "These unfair cuts are clearly in violation of the plain language of the constitutional pension clause.

    "Besides being illegal, forcing employees into the lower 'Tier 2' or a private Wall Street account would likely require adding Social Security eligibility—making this proposal even more costly to the state than the current pension plan.

    "Instead of inviting further litigation with clearly illegal schemes to strip the life savings of working people—and delaying real budget solutions with illusory savings from those illegal schemes—the governor should work with our coalition and lawmakers to develop a fair and constitutional approach to restoring fiscal soundness to state retirement funds."

  8. Statement from Cinda Klickna, president, Illinois Education Association, on Governor Rauner’s budget address

    Springfield, IL – February 18, 2015 – The budget outlined by the governor today would injure children in need, devastate higher education and saddle families with huge student loan debt. It is a proposal that would hurt middle class families in every part of Illinois.

    While the governor’s preK-12 education plan calls for a spending increase, the increase appears to have been achieved by cutting significant programs for children and middle class families.

    Illinois cannot offer “world-class schools educating all Illinois’ children” with a budget that cuts funding for arts, languages, advanced placement, parent mentoring for English language learners, agricultural education, special education and money to help the lowest performing schools. Under this proposal our students will not be able to compete with those in other states and countries for the best jobs.

    Illinoisans with the least access to a quality education will continue to suffer under this proposal. It’s a disgrace that, in 2015, schools in rural Illinois lack basic technology including high-speed Internet access. Yet this proposal would cut broadband funding.

    The governor also proposes cutting funding for insurance programs for those living on fixed incomes (TRIP and CCIP). That is unacceptable.

    The governor’s plan to drastically cut pension benefits for active employees is obviously unconstitutional and does nothing to address the state’s pension debt. Cutting retirement benefits would only make it harder to attract and retain the people we need to teach our children.

    The good news about today’s speech is that Governor Rauner cannot autocratically impose his dark vision for Illinois. We will share our ideas with the governor and we will work with the members of the Illinois General Assembly, both Republicans and Democrats, to develop a plan to move Illinois in the right direction.

  9. From my good friend and colleague:

    "You can read the substance of Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget proposals elsewhere. I’m not using up precious space here for it.

    "The first thing I thought about when I read them was that Rauner was simply acting like the private equity operator that he has always been.

    "What do private equity companies like Mitt Romney’s Baine Capital and Rauner’s GTCR do?

    "They strip companies of assets and turn them over for a fast buck. They load them up with dangerous amounts of debt. They suck out capital for their investors. They screw long time loyal employees and suppliers. Their greedy partners avoid the tax that others have to pay.

    "Welcome to the Bruce Rauner administration. What we are witnessing is the equivalent of a private equity takeover of the state.

    "The second thing that came to mind was who but the Democrats opened the door for this draconian budget proposal when they voted to cut pension benefits of public employees while refusing to address the economic inequality in Illinois’ tax and spending policies?

    "None of Rauner’s proposals will go anywhere if the Democrats feel enough pressure to say no and the state’s unions get mobilized instead of paralyzed" --Fred Klonsky

  10. Concluding Observations Based on the Pension Clause’s Text and Historical Background that Rauner Chooses to Ignore:

    “First, prior to the [Pension] Clause’s adoption, nearly all public employees were members of mandatory pension plans that lacked constitutional protection as ‘contractual’ rights and could be adversely changed by the legislature at any time. These mandatory plans were also underfunded and no better funded than the State’s five pension systems today.

    “Second, public employees believed constitutional protection was necessary because the State had historically failed to make its required contributions and because employees felt that the State would renege on its obligations should a fiscal crisis arise. Police and firemen were particularly concerned that municipalities would use their new ‘home rule’ powers to abandon their local pension systems. Accordingly, employee groups advocated for a constitutional provision that would not only protect pension benefit rights but also require the full funding of the pension system.

    “Third, the drafters of the Clause were aware of the concerns raised and requests made by public employee groups, the State’s failure to properly fund the pension system, and the difference in legal protection afforded to persons participating in a mandatory and optional pension plan. These concerns, in turn, prompted the drafters to include the Clause in the new Constitution.

    “Fourth, the drafters intended for the Clause to (1) protect pension benefit rights in all pension plans as ‘enforceable contractual rights’ as of when a public employee became a member of a pension system, and (2) bar the legislature from later unilaterally reducing those rights. In particular, the legislature could not require an employee to contribute a greater percentage of his or her salary to receive the same benefit, require him or her to work more years to receive the same benefit, or pay the employee a lower pension if he or she met his or her contribution and service obligations."

    from IS WELCHING ON PUBLIC PENSION PROMISES AN OPTION FOR ILLINOIS? AN ANALYSIS OF ARTICLE XIII, SECTION 5 OF THE ILLINOIS CONSTITUTION by Eric M. Madiar, former Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate.

  11. “Fifth, while the drafters did not intend for the Clause to require the funding of the pension system at any particular funding percentage [People ex rel. Illinois Federation of Teachers v. Lindberg (1975), McNamee v. State (1996), and People ex rel. Sklodowski v. State (1998) (pages 37-41)], they nonetheless intended to require that pension benefit payments be paid when those payments became due, even if a pension system were to default or be on the verge of default. Indeed, the drafters contemplated that an employee could enforce his or her right to benefit payments in court through a group action to compel payment.

    “Sixth, the drafters based the Clause on an identical provision in the New York Constitution, and included the Clause, in part, to foreclose the circumstance that occurred in New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Spina where the court upheld a unilateral reduction in pension benefits.

    “Seventh, the drafters were aware of the concerns raised by the Pension Laws Commission as to the significant limitation the Clause would place on legislative power. And, they rejected the Commission’s overtures to amend the Clause to allow the General Assembly to unilaterally change employee contribution rates, service conditions or other benefit terms.

    “Eighth, voters ratified the Clause based on the premise that the provision protected public pension benefit rights from reductions and that public employees were granted a constitutional right to their ‘full pension benefits.’

    “Finally, a plain language reading of the Pension Clause’s text makes clear that governmental entities may not reduce or eliminate a public employee’s pension payments and other membership entitlements once the employee becomes a pension system member. At the same time, the plain language also indicates that an employee’s pension payments and other membership entitlements are ‘contractual’ rights that may be presumably altered through mutual assent via contract principles. Further, the Clause’s prohibitory language against the diminishment or impairment of pension benefits is cast in absolute terms and lacks any exceptions…” (pages 25-26).

    from IS WELCHING ON PUBLIC PENSION PROMISES AN OPTION FOR ILLINOIS? AN ANALYSIS OF ARTICLE XIII, SECTION 5 OF THE ILLINOIS CONSTITUTION by Eric M. Madiar, former Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate.

  12. To challenge the “Pension Clause” is to defy common understanding of its legal and moral principles and to believe that every word in the State and U.S. Constitutions might also be interpreted in an infinite, fabricated regression of definitions.

    There is nothing transcendental or metaphysical about these 26 words: “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State… shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired” (Constitution of the State of Illinois, Article XIII, Section 5. Pension and Retirement Rights).

    It does not require intuitive or a priori thinking to justify or verify this claim because we have learned the English language and the rules governing its use. We know what these words mean in relation to written, verbal, historical and cultural contexts.

    Lexical definitions, denotations and connotations of the words “diminishment” and “impairment” are unequivocal. It is not necessary to break down these words into simple constituent parts unless, of course, we simply misunderstand them because of stupidity, carelessness, intentionality or maliciousness.

    We cannot mistake the meaning of words such as “shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired” because we understand and speak the English language. If words in our State Constitution are to refer or mean anything, they must be commonly understood and accepted as they have been for decades. Moreover, if words are to refer to anything, they must also be understood through their use, role, employment and past agreements.

    We have before us “the validity of decades of judicial precedents” that provide “the binding nature of legislation establishing pension commitments to government employees” (Defending and Protecting Public Employees’ Pensions against the Legislative Siege).

  13. If there is anything else we might examine regarding the “Pension Clause” and its relationship to a reality that reveals repeated attempts by the wealthy elite and/or politicians to steal constitutionally-guaranteed pension benefit rights, perhaps we should also dispute the relentless attacks on the very intelligibility of the English language by these liars and thieves. We know the “Pension Clause” is valid because it is understood to be a contractual right and guarantee that public employees have earned.

    Though incompetent, corrupt politicians and their wealthy benefactors continue to ignore legal and moral terminologies and court precedents, logical and ethical people understand the essential history and necessity of the “Pension Clause” and know what it also means to uphold the State and U.S. Constitutions.

  14. From Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers

    Dear IFT member:

    ...Rather than addressing our state’s fiscal challenges, right out of the gate Rauner has instead chosen to blame public workers for our state’s ills and level out-of-touch, partisan attacks on middle class families and our unions.

    In a blatant abuse of power on February 9, the Governor signed an Executive Order to block thousands of state employees – including about 900 IFT members – from paying the equivalent of dues. (The order does not impact teachers, school employees, and higher education faculty). He also announced that he filed suit in federal court to have these fair share provisions declared unconstitutional.

    That’s right. The Governor’s first action was to sue us. The IFT and other unions responded immediately to oppose the illegal, overreaching order. And we were not alone.

    Researchers and media across the country weighed in on the Governor’s action. From the New York Times: “Rauner issued an executive order this week that would weaken state unions ... [A]ll working people would suffer, because collectively bargained pay increases in unionized workplaces tend to lift wages in non-unionized ones. Anti-unionism, which has become increasingly entrenched in recent decades, correlates with stagnating and declining wages.”

    When Rauner’s appointee, Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger, agreed with Attorney General Lisa Madigan that the order was illegal and refused to follow it, the Governor found a “work around.” As one reporter wrote: “So, instead of ordering the comptroller to violate state law and state contracts, the governor’s gonna do it himself.”

    From his first day in office, the Governor has vilified working people and suggested public employees are overpaid. It's blatant hypocrisy, and Rauner is rightfully being called out on it. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about the Governor who “defends aides’ pay while ripping state salaries,” while the Quad-City Times reported that he has awarded top administrators at the State Board of Education with big bonuses, while union workers (IFT members!) haven’t received a raise or cost of living adjustment in years. Not to mention, they’ve been trying to bargain a contract for nearly two years to no avail.

    His budget address this week was just another example of Rauner’s attacks on workers and families - and it is unconscionable. While proposing billions of dollars in cuts to critical programs and services and employee benefits, he refuses to ask corporations and the wealthiest Illinoisans to pay a penny more, despite a crystal clear mandate from voters in November.

    Some of the cuts he proposes are illegal (thus making the savings fictional), including the elimination of health insurance for retired teachers and a pension “reform” plan, which would move teachers, university employees, and state employees into the insufficient Tier 2 pension plan beginning July 1. Such a change is unconstitutional, and when he announced it, every legislator in that chamber knew it. Even the “funding increase” Rauner proposes for education is dishonest and doesn’t provide the minimum per pupil funding level required to educate our kids. In fact, if he freezes property taxes as he has pledged, his proposed increase would barely cover one-third of that lost revenue, thus making it a cut. It's just a shell game.

    But none of Rauner’s attacks are a game to middle class workers and our families, and I can assure you, we aren’t sitting idly by. Our union is working nonstop with lawmakers in Springfield, and we’re spreading our message in the media to educate the public about this Governor’s dangerous proposals. We are working with our labor partners and other groups to coordinate and enhance our efforts...

    In unity,

    Dan Montgomery
    President, IFT

  15. We live in a country where the Democratic/Republican Party System is failing us; where venture capitalists like Rauner and hedge fund billionaires are buying and destroying our democracy; where 401(k) s are fraudulent games of theft and greed played within the wealthy financial sector; where numerous senators and representatives are pawns of the American Legislative Exchange Council; where “the privatization of health services has corresponded closely with skyrocketing costs, leaving millions of Americans without access to care or deeply in debt for seeking treatment for their illnesses,” and where homeless people don't matter.

    We live in a country where a major credit-rating agency was accused of “manipulating pension data”; where “Koch-supported groups have strongly worked behind the scenes on the federal and local levels to eradicate Social Security and Medicare as overly costly entitlements given to working class people,” and where the Koch Brothers and major corporations sponsor pension reform seminars for judges.

    We live in a country where breaking a constitutional contract with retirees and public employees is deemed morally and legally justifiable by legislative liars and thieves; where public employees and retirees are victims of plutocratic, concentrated economic privilege and power that accommodates and reinforces an enormous inequality of organizational resources for corporate self-seekers; where public schools are for sale; where public school teachers have been assaulted by a barrage of attacks on their autonomy, dignity and self-respect; where labor unions have lost political power and influence; where there is no pay equity or job security for college adjunct faculty, and where “memories of the university as a citadel of democratic learning have been replaced by a university eager to define itself largely as an adjunct of corporate power.”

    We live in a country where the plutocratic free market theory caters to self-interested desires and profit to the detriment of millions of Americans, while promising “freedom and prosperity;” where Free market principles advocate that the rich and poor should be taxed at the same flat rate, despite creating a vast inequity; where education, health care, retirement pensions, national parks (and most any function intrinsic to essential governing) become privatized to reap in more profits; where publicly-owned companies, services and their assets are auctioned off to private investors; that besides allocating vast amounts of wealth and resources from public to private ownership, there is a transfer of private debts to the public sector while public ownership and service are systematically dismantled.

    What should we do about these assaults? Contact your union leaders and tell them we need to organize serious resistance!