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posted: 8/11/2012 5:00 AM

Give unions more of the responsibility

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A recent Daily Herald editorial asked for "outspoken involvement," so here is my response. Financial malfeasance of legislators and union leaders has endangered public sector employees and left taxpayers and our children staggering debt. The $83 billion pension debt will rise to $200 billion next year when we acknowledge lower investment returns and rising health care costs.

Any comprehensive solution will require transparency, guarantees and controls unobtainable under the current system. Most importantly, we must end the "state" guarantee of future benefits. Today, that guarantor is our children, and that is unfair.

The benefits earned to date should be honored, but the obligation for future benefits should transfer to the employee unions. Union responsibility will ensure timely state payments, encourage "self-policing," reduce cheating and end the collusion that created this problem. It will also right-size the power and clout of public sector unions.

Second, we should provide only Medicare and Medicaid coverage for public sector retirees. Excess coverage should be obtained through their union, not our children.

Third, all new employees should be moved to Social Security and Medicare to align basic benefits and employee contributions. Unions can negotiate (and promise) additional benefits, but they must be based on direct annual payments tied to the length of the contract.

Fourth, we should end defined benefit pensions for legislators and judges. They too should be on Social Security and Medicare. If they don't like the compensation, they can seek jobs in the private sector.

These steps are all necessary to protect our children. We should honor our promises and protect benefits already earned, but we must shift the burden for future benefits to the unions. This generational shift of obligations and debt will eventually destroy the relationship between government and the taxpayer. It will also ruin Illinois.

Bob Ruffatto

Arlington Heights

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