Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Illinois State Representative Grant Wehrli's Legislative Survey

Representative Grant Wehrli:

I responded to your online legislative survey today, but your survey does not address other important challenges of the state; nor does it offer the best solutions (or choices) for the state's complicated issues. Most unfortunately, the survey asks constituents to make simple choices to complex questions, questions that are constructed in a way that demands no scrutiny in order to answer intelligently, and with no understanding of the consequences for responding to an inane “yes/no/undecided” format. Take for instance the following three questions in your legislative survey.

Question #1: “There are many important challenges facing our state. Please rank the following in order of importance to you. –Creating Jobs, -Reforming State Pensions, -Improving Education, -Rebuilding Infrastructure, i.e. Roads and Bridges, -Reducing State Debt.”

The survey omits raising revenue in Illinois and re-amortizing the unfunded liability as important choices. (Please read how to raise more state revenue and how to re-amortize the flawed pension ramp again. Click here. I gave you some of that information when we met in your office on Monday, March 13).

Question #4: “Do you support moving away from state funded pensions and towards an independent 401-k system?  -Yes, -No, -Undecided.” 

The survey omits the dire consequences of “moving away from state funded pensions and towards an independent 401-K system.” Most constituents do not know about these consequences. According to the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois:

“The Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois annually distributes approximately $3.8 billion in pensions and benefits to men, women, and children in every corner of the state, creating a sustained economic stimulus that helps drive the economy in all 102 counties. This study is based on recurring payments to retirees, survivors, and disability benefit recipients living in Illinois. Lump-sum payments for refunds and death benefits are excluded from the analysis since they do not provide a continuing source of income. Net, rather than gross, benefits are used in this analysis because the net benefits are what stimulate the state economy. The multipliers were produced by the Regional Product Division of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“The positive ripple effect of TRS benefits jumps by 46 percent to more than $5.584 billion in total economic activity throughout Illinois - new full-time jobs, salaries earned, and new goods and services produced across the state.

“The study, conducted by TRS using benefit statistics from February 2015 benefit payments, found that:

• Eighty percent of the System’s 89,817 total benefit recipients live in Illinois.
• The $3.8 billion in pensions and benefits paid to Illinois residents is 83 percent of the total pensions and benefits distributed by TRS annually. The statewide economic impact of TRS pensions and benefits can be measured in real terms:

This is the overall measure of economic activity in Illinois stemming from TRS pensions and benefits. It includes all TRS payments, salaries earned in those jobs, and increases in the state’s Gross Domestic Product.

This is the total number of full-time jobs supported by the $3.821 billion in TRS pensions and benefits pumped into the Illinois economy.

These are the total salaries earned by persons employed in Illinois jobs that are fueled by TRS benefit payments.

This is the amount added to the Illinois Gross Domestic Product – the total value of goods and services produced within Illinois – due to TRS pension and benefit payments.

Furthermore, according to TRS, “making newly-hired teachers pay into Social Security and allowing them to be eligible for benefits would affect all current and retired teachers. Illinois teachers have never been part of the Social Security system. Most teachers rely almost solely on a TRS pension during retirement. Active teachers [currently] contribute 9.0 percent of their paycheck to help fund TRS and school districts contribute 0.58 percent of every teacher’s salary to the System. Last year, all told, teachers contributed $917 million to TRS and school districts contributed $155 million.

“For new teachers to become part of Social Security this scenario would mean a mandatory 12.4 percent payroll deduction split evenly between the member and the employer, which in the case of Illinois teachers is school districts and state government. Teachers would still be required to contribute 9.0 percent of salary to TRS.

“For school districts, the cost of teacher pensions would immediately rise by a considerable amount. Instead of contributing 0.58 percent per new teacher, every district would have to contribute 6.2 percent per teacher. It is estimated that this increased cost would equal $41 million for Illinois school districts in the first year and more than $2.4 billion over 10 years. Plus, districts would still have to contribute 0.58 percent for each participant in the current system.

“Finally, a 1999 study by the General Accounting Office found that adding teachers and other public employers from around the country who are not currently in Social Security would create, at best, a temporary surge in revenue for Social Security. Over the long term, adding teachers to Social Security would only increase the System’s total obligations and deepen the long-term funding problem” (TRS).

Perhaps the survey should also be asking your constituents whether the State of Illinois ought to keep a constitutional promise: in other words, whether a politician can break a constitutional contract with ANY citizen in Illinois if it suits a politician’s advantage. Moreover, how about asking whether a politician should continue to hurt the lives of people who were not responsible for the state’s pension debt and lack of revenue? And how about asking whether so-called pension reform, or the breaking of a constitutional contract, is moral and legal, and whether it is right to ignore the State and U.S. Constitutions again and again?

Question #6: “Most of Illinois’ neighboring states have in recent years adopted ‘right to work’ laws. Would you support initiatives to make Illinois a ‘right to work’ state to help us compete for jobs? –Yes, -No, -Undecided.”

You omitted what “right to work” laws would do to the State of Illinois. Besides not helping the state “compete for jobs,” according to the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois:

“Efforts to create local ‘right-to-work’ zones would have negative impacts on workers and the economy in Illinois. The preponderance of evidence finds that worker incomes are lower in economies with ‘right-to-work’ laws and that employment effects are minimal at best. 

“For instance, average worker wages are $2.90 per hour (13 percent) higher in Illinois than in ‘right-to-work’ Indiana, and Illinois added 14,000 more jobs in 2014. At the same time, the unemployment rate in eastern Illinois counties was lower than in ‘right-to-work’ counties across the Indiana border in December 2014.

“The proposal for local ‘right-to-work’ zones is based on the assumption that high union density hampers local economies. An analysis of the 102 counties in Illinois, however, reveals that this presupposition is unfounded. 

“Higher county-level unionization rates within Illinois have no discernible impact on employment growth, establishment openings growth, and average household income growth. The evidence that unionization raises the unemployment rate in Illinois is also weak. The claim that ‘right-to-work’ is an effective way to put people to work is not supported by the evidence.

“Incorporating estimates from previous policy research, economic impact analyses are performed to determine the effect of adopting local ‘right-to-work’ laws in half of Illinois’ counties, excluding Cook County. The models randomly select 51 counties to become ‘right-to-work’ zones and demonstrate the negative consequences of the proposal. If half of the state’s counties (excluding Cook County) became ‘right-to-work’ zones: 

• Total labor income would fall by $1.3 billion;
• The economy would shrink by $1.5 billion;
• State and local tax revenues would be reduced by $80 million;
• Labor unions would experience a loss of 200,000 members;
• Racial income inequality and gender income inequality would both increase; and
• The number of workplace injuries and fatalities would rise.

“In the seven integrated county economies with over 100,000 workers in Illinois, predicted impacts are generally similar. If local ‘right-to-work’ zones were only passed in the Chicago six-county area, the regional economy would experience over 5,500 jobs lost and an economic contraction of $2.6 billion. 

“Both businesses and workers would relocate to other parts of the state with better incomes and higher consumer demand. Similarly, local ‘right-to-work’ laws would reduce total worker earnings by around $40 to $60 million in the Champaign-Urbana, Quad Cities, Rockford, and Springfield-Decatur regions. 

“Labor income would also be predicted to decline by $16 million in the Peoria-Bloomington community and by $104 million in the St. Louis region. Local ‘right-to-work’ zones would eradicate good middle-class jobs, replacing them with low-wage employment openings and redistributing income from labor to capital.

“Ultimately, economic analysis reveals that local ‘right-to-work’ laws would reduce worker earnings and decrease state and local tax revenues…       
“Local ‘right-to-work’ zones would have overall negative impacts for Illinois workers. First, workers earn more in fair-share collective bargaining economies. The preponderance of evidence indicates that incomes are between 2 and 6 percent lower in ‘right-to-work’ states. Compared to their counterparts in Indiana, a neighboring ‘right-to-work’ state, Illinois workers earned 12.8 percent more in average hourly wages in 2014. 

“There is also no evidence that higher unionization rates are associated with slower income growth across Illinois. Moreover, if half of Illinois’ counties adopted ‘right-to-work’ regulations, total labor income in the economy would fall by $1.3 billion throughout the state.

“Second, the impact of ‘right-to-work’ laws on employment outcomes is mixed. Previous estimates suggest a marginal 0.4 percentage point increase in jobs due to ‘right-to-work’ laws, but an effect of zero cannot conclusively be ruled out. 

“The unemployment rate in western counties in ‘right-to-work’ Indiana is higher than the unemployment rate in bordering eastern Illinois. Additionally, there is no evidence that a higher county-level union membership rate leads to smaller employment growth rate or establishment growth rate in Illinois counties. The predicted impact of 51 counties becoming ‘right-to-work’ zones in Illinois is a small 2,348-job increase in the state.

“A definitive consequence of enacting local ‘right-to-work zones’ would be further erosion of Illinois’ middle class. Labor unions would be expected to experience a loss of 200,000 members if half of the state’s counties (excluding Cook County) became ‘right-to-work’ areas. 

“Since unions provide greater income benefits for nonwhite and female workers than for Caucasian males, this causal impact of ‘right-to-work’ would increase both racial income inequality and gender income inequality. 

“Good middle-class jobs would be replaced by low-wage openings in ‘right-to-work’ counties, and employee income would be transferred to wealthy employers. As result, total economic output in Illinois would fall by $1.5 billion and cash-strapped local governments would experience a revenue loss of $80 million.

“Ultimately, economic analysis reveals that local ‘right-to-work’ laws would encourage free-riding, lower worker earnings, and reduce state and local tax revenues. The likely result would be a weaker Illinois economy. Improving the entire Illinois economy by increasing consumer demand, raising worker wages, and making investments in education and public infrastructure are better policy prescriptions with proven track records to help all counties in the state…”

(Read comment posted on Right-to Work case).

-Glen Brown


  1. U.S. Court of Appeals Preserves Fair Share Fees, Dismisses Right-to-Work Case

    (SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) –– The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday, March 21 protected the right of Teamsters Local 916 to collect fair share fees and dismissed a challenge brought on by the Right-to-Work Coalition.

    Circuit Judge Richard Posner dismissed the Coalition’s case filed on behalf of Local 916 fair share member Brian Trygg and another worker. Judge Posner declared that Brian Trygg already had a full and fair opportunity for his case to be heard and that “he missed his chance” to argue that fair share fees are now unconstitutional. The other plaintiff’s case was dismissed as the U.S. Court of Appeals cannot overrule the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Abood.

    Previously, Trygg objected to paying fair share fees to Local 916 based on personal religious beliefs, though he was still afforded the benefits and protections of a Teamster contract, including a merit incentive bonus program with his employer. The plaintiffs, through the Right-to-Work Coalition, sued the Teamsters and AFSCME to avoid paying their representational fees.

    A 1977 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court has held for 40 years that unions are entitled to charge a fair share for work performed to represent individuals who choose not to become full dues-paying union members. Fair share fees are essential to negotiate and enforce a collective bargaining agreement, litigate grievances on behalf of members, file unfair labor practice charges and manage all other employment-related matters.

    “The Seventh Circuit has very directly focused on the legal rights of parties before it. In particular, it recognized that parties are required to make all of their arguments in claims that they file and not try to split them into multiple suits,” said Attorney Carl Draper of Feldman Wasser on behalf of Local 916. “No one is allowed more than one bite at the apple and plaintiff Trygg had his day in court as this opinion affirms.”

    “Any effort by Mr. Trygg or the Right-to-Work Coalition to pursue further appeals to the Supreme Court should recognize that there is now no viable claim against Local 916,” said Local 916 Legal Counsel JP Fyans.

    “This decision applies well-established law that employees who get all of the benefits of union representation should pay their fair share of the costs of the union negotiations and representation,” Draper said. “It would be inherently unfair for unions to be legally required to negotiate fair wages and working conditions, and to provide representation on grievances and arbitration on behalf of employees who do not wish to share in that expense.”

    The full decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit can be found here:


    Teamsters Local 916 proudly represents over 4,000 hardworking men and women throughout Illinois in the private and public sectors.


  2. A overly simplistic survey--a fool's errand.
    Yes, no, undecided; #1--glaring omissions.
    Of course, unquestioning & uninformed minds--unlike yours--will respond, &, w/skewed results, an erroneous report will be given to constituents.

    Kinda like the questions, "When did you stop beating your wife?" or "Who's on third?"

  3. Sham survey from a sham statesman.
    There are ALEC workshops across the nation that teach the stooges who write this stuff for their legislative bosses. Grant Wehrli should be ashamed of himself for his hypocrisy and his attempt to fool his own constituents. That assumes that he is capable of feeling shame for his arrogance.