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posted: 1/8/2014 5:00 AM

Understand how public pensions benefit all

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I am a retired certified public accountant. During my career I held a number of highly responsible accountability related positions in the public and private sectors in Illinois and nationally. This included service as the project manager for the Governmental Accounting Standards Board's development and issuance of its initial pension disclosure guidance for public employee retirement systems and state and local government employers.

We need urgently to insist upon open accountable government. Closed unaccountable government brings unintended consequences, confusion, divisiveness, disappointment and disaster.

Our system of government is not broken, but its checks and balances are badly undernourished and weakened by insufficient public participation. "We the people" ultimately get the soundness of government and the quality of life which we insist on, and nothing better. We have been almost completely ignoring our responsibilities and opportunities in this regard. Our General Assembly passed major "pension reform" legislation, which will seriously affect all our lives, without first accomplishing clear publicly shared stakeholder understandings of the nuances and implications of what they say they are trying to do and why.

We have an urgent need to 1) dispel the misconception that defined benefit pensions are unsustainable and 2) strengthen public understanding of their public interest reliability advantages compared to defined contribution plans. We will then together see clearly how to optimally employ defined benefit plans to help us accomplish our public objectives.

We are one of the richest states in the richest nation in the history of the world. Instead of reducing retirement security for public sector workers and retirees, we should commit together to strengthen it for everyone in both the public and private sectors. If we have the will, we certainly have the wherewithal we need to accomplish this.

Dick Haas


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