So, the Illinois House has passed one pension reform bill that “solves” the crisis and the Senate is considering another. The Daily Herald has endorsed the House bill as “fair.”
As a 64-year-old community college professor, who has planned her retirement in part based on the ironclad promises in our Constitution and state law and who now has no time to adjust for the proposed changes, I disagree. The House bill simply reduces all pension benefits for all participants without so much as a tip of the cap to the Illinois Constitution and prior state law on funding requirements.
Of course, the bill is written by the one person possibly most responsible for pension underfunding and overspending in Illinois in the first place. This bill contains a mandatory funding requirement but we have seen how much that is worth.
It turns out the House bill is just intended to intimidate the unions and drive them toward the Senate bill that tries to make the pain more tolerable by giving participants a choice of which promised benefits they will forego in a pathetic nod toward constitutionality.
In fact, both bills seek to solve the pension crisis entirely on the backs of the participants who did their jobs, made their contributions and whose pensions are far from grand or abusive. It absolves of responsibility all other Illinoisans who benefitted from the diversion of funds from the pension system for years.
You can say it’s too bad and it’s the best we can do at this point. You can congratulate the legislature on its willingness, finally, to do its job and thank all the state employees for all those pork barrel spending projects that, it turns out, were funded with their pension money. But don’t call it “fair.”
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