Debate is raging around whether the Madigan House bill or the Cullerton Senate bill is a solution to the pension problem in Illinois. In my opinion, neither one is acceptable. Both are unconstitutional. Both result in a "diminishment" of benefits as prohibited by the Illinois Constitution.
The burden of pain should fall on the pensions of the legislators and executives who have been stealing from employee pensions for decades. And while we're at it, why is the Illinois Supreme Court exempt from a reduction in its pension? The court was petitioned twice to compel the legislature to make necessary payments to the pension fund and twice refused to do so (once in the 1970s and once in the 1990s). Exempting the Supreme Court from pension reduction is, in my opinion, a not-so-subtle bribe to encourage the court to uphold the proposed unconstitutional legislative reductions of pensions.
Arguments will be made that reducing the pensions of the members of the three branches of government would not alone solve the problem of pension shortfall. No doubt, but it would at least place the pain of pension reduction on the government bodies that caused the problem and not as much on the employees who have been making the required pension payments year after year and decade after decade.
As for a solution to the problem is concerned, I favor the plan of economist Ralph Martire which calls for a larger upfront payment to the pension fund, which would result in lower, long-term affordable payments for the next several decades. This long-term solution would be a fair way to pay back the stolen pension funds. It took several decades to create this financial mess. The solution will also require such a long term repayment plan.
Joseph W. Hafenscher
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