On Tuesday, a statewide referendum, HJRCA 49, will ask voters if they support an amendment to the Illinois Constitution requiring a three-fifths supermajority vote of the General Assembly to approve any future pension benefit increases. The Northwest Municipal Conference, a regional council of government representing 41 municipalities and one township with a population of over 1.3 million Illinois residents, urges voters to vote "yes" for this important constitutional amendment.
Since 2009, the NWMC has been advocating for a supermajority requirement to approve any pension benefit increases. For too long, previous General Assemblies and governors have, at the behest of the unions, repeatedly approved pension increases for public safety personnel with virtually no regard to the fiscal impact these sweeteners would have upon local taxpayers. These pension sweeteners have contributed to the exponential increase in taxpayer contributions to local police and firefighter pension funds, resulting in higher taxes, greatly reduced public services including public safety and long term instability of the very pensions that were enhanced.
This amendment alone will not restore fiscal stability to pension funds or relieve taxpayers struggling to make mandated contributions. As a founding member of the Pension Fairness for Illinois Communities Coalition we are working with legislators on comprehensive public safety pension reforms. This amendment is a critical tool to limit the ability of future legislative bodies to undo these much needed pension reforms.
We strongly believe this amendment will hold consideration of future pension benefit increases to a higher standard, shine a much needed spotlight on any proposed increase and slow the legislative process in order to provide much needed time for local governments and taxpayer advocates to mobilize opposition to these costly proposals.
Mark L. Fowler
Northwest Municipal Conference