I want to thank you for your attempt to explain Illinois' pension difficulties. From what I am reading, however, it appears that part of the problem was caused by teachers receiving cost of living increases and being paid too much before they retired. Actually, as I see it, had the state properly paid its share of pension payments over the last 50 years, we'd have no difficulties at all given the rate of market return that boomed in the 1990s.
In 1995, I was forced to incur an over $15,000 debt to pay more money into the pension system to cover the state's indebtedness, and that, I was told, was going to "fix" the system and enable me to collect my pension benefits. That was 2.2 percent more of my pay being taken away when I was only receiving a 1 percent pay increase from my school district.
I'm certainly no fan of Mike Madigan or Rod Blagojevich but, if memory serves me, I believe it was Jim Thompson, a Republican governor who repeatedly took "pension holidays" and reallocated pension funds for other uses. George Ryan, another Republican governor also provided only a little over 60 percent of the payment to the fund.
That very real problem is obviously the ability of Illinois to generate revenue to meet its expenses. This problem results from giving huge tax breaks to CME stockbrokers who find it inconvenient to pay sales taxes like the rest of us, or to Sears, UAL, The Museum of Public Broadcasting, and others, particularly when Illinois taxpayers have received NOTHING of value in return for the benefits provided these corporations. Since December, 2011, more than $160 million have been given out in tax breaks. When was the last time teachers took trillions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and then paid no taxes?
When millions of dollars are so freely given away without thought to the current budget deficit Illinois faces, surely there must be some recognition for the consequences. There is a very real need to redefine and restructure the current income tax so that it is a PROGRESSIVE one that allows ALL citizens in Illinois to pay their appropriate share of taxes into the system rather than allowing that burden to rest solely on the middle class. Yet, I see no mention or discussion either by the Governor, the legislature or you about the need to generate revenue to cover expenditures. That's a basic accounting principle.
It's always easy to tromp on the rights of those who cannot defend themselves like the elderly, children, and the poor and take away the assistance a civilized society provides for those in need--they don't make big political donations, so who cares. It's quite another thing to create a new genre of disadvantaged by depriving those who've faithfully paid for their benefits and relied on the promise given by the State of Illinois to provide those benefits to them once they retire. I believe what we have here is the offer of benefits for the offer of payment which is a benefit for a detriment and in any legal book that creates a contract. That's what the teachers have with the State, a contract and a constitutional guarantee that these benefits are sacrosanct.
I respectfully suggest then, Senator, that you begin to fulfill your oath of office to defend the constitution and protect the citizens of Illinois, in this case the teachers, and create a REAL solution to the unfunded liability and the state's breach of contract. A real solution that goes beyond ridiculous party loyalties and ego-maniacal maneuvering. A real solution that doesn't involve another tax. Work to enact legislation that provides for the restructuring of Illinois' income tax to be a progressive, revenue generating instrument instead of using pension money to subsidize the corporations and the wealthy. Thank you for your consideration.
Roberta L. Rebb, M.Ed.
I want you all to know how much I admire this important fight we're carrying on and the courage you've shown in moving our issues to the forefront. The energy and innovation you've invested have kept our benefits safe so far and made us a stronger network. I hope you will continue to fight on my behalf as I fight this terrible disease. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I hold you all to my heart.