Gov. Pat Quinn seems to be losing his patience with the General Assembly on the issue of pension reform.

It’s about time.

Quinn hinted last week that he will call the legislature into special session in August to deal with the pension issue, pointing out it has been studied to the point where “the time for study is complete, and now it’ll be time for action.”

But legislative leaders, many Democrats like Quinn, seem perfectly happy to spend their summer campaigning, vacationing and playing golf and don’t seem in any hurry to resolve this key issue in the state’s financial crisis.

Andy Manar, who was Senate President John Cullerton’s chief of staff before deciding to run for Senate in the Decatur/Springfield area, said last week he doesn’t believe senators realize the severity of the state’s financial crisis. Even if you discount that comment as a political strategy to distance himself from his former boss, it’s an incredible statement about our elected leaders.

But it appears to be true. The General Assembly adjourned in May without solving the pension issues — and there is no solution to the state’s financial woes that doesn’t involve solving them. Leaders in the debate said they needed more information, which is pretty incredible given the years the crisis has been apparent.

A subsequent meeting included a request for even more information. The tactic seems to be to study the issue all summer and then delay a decision until after the November election. Once again, legislators are putting their own self interests ahead of Illinois.

One of the main sticking points is the question of shifting funding for pensions from the state to individual school districts. Suburban and downstate school districts do not pay pension costs, which has resulted in all sorts of questionable practices such as end-of-career pay escalations. In other words, districts have been happy to shift costs to the state.

Republicans, who generally oppose the shift, say it will financially cripple some school districts and lead to property tax increases. That may be true in some case, but many districts have ample reserves to handle the pension cost shift. Other districts could pay for the shift by giving away fewer pension goodies. Ultimately, it makes sense for local school districts to pay for their own pension decisions. And if the pension issue isn’t addressed, tax increases are inevitable. Taxpayers would have much more control over what’s done by local school boards than what happens in the General Assembly late at night during a lame duck session.

It’s also enlightening to look at when Quinn might call a special session, as outlined in the political newsletter, Capital Fax. The National Conference of State Legislatures meets Aug. 6-9 in Chicago, the Illinois State Fair runs Aug. 9-19 with Governor’s Day on Aug. 15 and Republican Day the next day, and the Republican National Convention runs Aug. 27-30.

That’s a pretty full agenda, but is it too much to ask our elected representatives to take a couple of days and deal with the one issue that is crippling the state financially?

Whether Quinn calls the General Assembly into special session remains to be seen. He’s offered empty threats before, at one time saying he’d have the General Assembly in session all summer if the issue wasn’t addressed.

But the pension issue won’t go away. It won’t be washed away by a rain storm and it can’t be solved while campaigning during a parade, attending a convention or playing golf. The General Assembly needs to do its job and Quinn should do whatever is necessary to make sure that happens.

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(11) comments

BornAgain
BornAgain

If the P-Graph wasn't so stingy with the pension benefits if provides its employes the benefits offered to teachers would not seem like "pension goodies.".

goneriding

I have it they can fix the whole thing by cutting there pay by 3/4 that would be a good start and get reid of all that free stuff that they get.The p-ghaph should make a list of all the free bees and put it up so we can see it.Now that would be something to talk about

BornAgain
BornAgain

Tax retirement income!

Wat Tyler
Wat Tyler

Pension reform is not going to be easy or painless or pleasant. The retirement fund cannot be made whole by the taxpayers. The amount owed is more than the taxes that could be collected to pay for the debt. It is an impossibility for the taxpayers to solve this problem by sacrificing. The Illinois constitution makes it very difficult to cut pensions. Article 8, General Provisions, Section 5 Pension Rights, states:

"Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an
enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired."

The unions will be opposed to any reform that reduces pensions or costs jobs. And yet, it has got to be done, or the pension fund will run dry and nobody will get any retirement benefit. Good Luck governor, you will need it.

virtuonian

I agree with Wat T- reform is not going to be easy on anyone. Change needs to take place but that change does need need to catastrophically punish tens of thousands of hardworking people or retirees. Remember, if our politicians had funded the program as they are legally required pensions would cost the state less than $1 billion per year. A lot of money no matter how you slice it but far less than the $6.5 billion (depending on what figures one uses) and rising they have to come up with. The ILGA has used our treasury more like a credit card and now the bill has come due. Lie a sick comedy they are now pointing fingers every which way (unions etc.) but they took the campaign money and sold their souls just to get elected. We allowed that. There are solutions, tax retirement income over $100k, limit how much one can receive ($300k is a joke and far too much for a public pension) reform how Universities are funded and spend their money (if the general public fully knew the perks and waste at our public universities they would be astounded), increase the contribution from those in the pension system and employers, set a specific schedule for insurance costs and contributions across the board. These are realistic, equitable changes that would go a long way to solving one of the innumerable messes our politicians have gotten us into, true solutions will only come when the citizens get the political/governmental system in Illinois under control.

parrot

I have posted many times defending the retirement benefits of THOSE ALREADY RETIRED. I'm not going to lay out those defenses here. Just this: there is nothing we can do to go back, change our retirement date, or do anything but hope one at least of the lawsuits go in our favor. I will agree with the Pantagraph that something needs to be done this summer. The leadership are cowards waiting until after the election. I think if THOSE OF US ALREADY RETIRED are going to be screwed, we have a right to know when and how badly. And by the way, Pantagraph, you're nuts if you think I'm paying one cent in addition to my regular subscription for online access while you want my pension slashed. So......may be one of my last posts.

redleg

@parrot ~ Your post describes where I am at. Tired of being attacked and even more tired of the Pantagraph's narrow-minded editorials.

I do have one more post to make.

Nshape

I just wish the legislature would vote b/c this is getting really old having our long-term planning hang in the balance. What disturbs me is the sheer destruction that the general public wants to see to our pensions and then asinine comments such as "goneriding" below stating "cut their pay by 3/4".....yeah b/c you'd like seeing us lose everything we've worked for and living in mud huts! I've mentioned on here a couple time several key diminished benefits that I could live with, and then another commenter made a snarky comment "That would be a good start." After ALLLL of the diminished benefit ideas I listed, it STILLLL wasn't good enough for that hate-monger poster!

Another philosophical problem is the notion that any misfortune by the taxpayer should be reflected/shoved onto the public sector....x2 just for good measure! Luckily, success is very individualistic, and if Jim Bob CHOOSES to not go to college and drive a forklift for $13/hr all his life, that doesn't mean I (and my salary) am held hostage by his lack of potential. And if Jane CHOOSES to be a part-time dishwasher with no benefits, then that doesn't mean I am held hostage by her lack of potential and ensuing benefit problems. For most on here, when your 401K's go up again, you will be like hogs in slop and pity our pensions...it's just some people can't whether the storm and have a problem even being able to see the public sector in the rearview mirror.

And parrot, you are right. After being out of the workforce and into the golden years of your life, it is not realistic to suddenly go back into the workforce like a spring chicken in your 70s/80s/90s. If some people want to work until the die, that's their choice...but the rest of us should have options to have work be a significant, yet temporary, part of our lives that ends in our 50s.

Harcourt

There are many culprits in the Illinois Pension Crisis. One was the greed of the teacher's unions in lobbying for benefits that would not be sustainable. Another was the greed of the politicians eager to pass benefits in exchange for teacher's votes. The editorial is generally on the money. There are plenty of solutions that don't have to affect those already retired or near-retired. The younger ones will have time to plan for the reductions. As a retiree, I find some of the benerfits of those retired to be downright embarrassing in their excesses. It is unfortunate that even the excesses are probably protected consitutionally.

Nshape

I'm curious to know what you find to be downright embarrassing. The problem is the state being BILLIONS behind in contributions. If you went into a business partnership with someone and agreed on how much each would contribute and then your partner didn't pay his part (while you payed yours in full) and then blamed YOU, that wouldn't be fair to you, would it? That is what the state is doing to public employees now.

I saw on another website where some local superintendents met with Dan Brady about the cost shift to the districts, which is a TERRIBLE idea. I'm sure the supers were able to tactfully lay out the problems with it, but I got the feeling from the article that it went over like a terd on a birthday cake b/c the state seems pretty intent on defaulting on what it owes. In turn, any attempt at sustainability of a quality pension for future retirees would make the public employees out to be the bad guys in a world that increasingly likes to play the "have not" card.

goneriding

You have a lot to say about your teacher's and there greed man you are so far off from the truth..And here is the fact's the state has been robbing the cash for so long that they broke the fund not the teacher's and not the union. Now they want to bail on the money put back the small town's to fund there robbing and down right stealing.For this you think it's on them and there greed.And has for there vote that is cazy must of the teacher's know that the state is going to renig on all the thing's that they say because they know that there dealing with double crossing low life's that can lie to your face.So if they want all the town's to fund the teacher's im ok with that.BUT / i want them to put back all the PEOPLE'S MONEY ALL 80 Billon you should 'nt be calling them greedy you should be call quinn and rod and ryan greedy. I seen teacher's take stuff to school that came from there pocket not the school.So the next time you see a treacher teaching some kid's with some bad problem's just walk up to there face look them in the eye and say your just greedy. Iv read a lot of stuff on here but for some one to call some one greedy that take's the cake.FOR ALL THE TEACHER'S OUT THERE KEEP UP THE FIGHT

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