It is time to stop blaming everyone, telling half truths, and running away from the problems.
We do not need pension reform in Illinois, we need a PENSION OVERHAUL.
Knee-jerk reforms are not the answer when the entire system is broke.
The pension crisis in Illinois deserves everyone's full attention and participation.
The decisions should not be made by paid-for-politicians and private corporations that have no ones interest at heart but their own.
The answers need to be found by all facets of the issue working together.--
EDITORIAL AT DAILY HERALD
By Daily Herald Editorial Board
The scare tactics being employed on both sides of the pension debate in Illinois are frighteningly effective.
There’s the TV ad by business and civic groups that has an unseen state worker demanding $857 a year for 35 years from a mother and her toddler daughter standing in their doorway. When the miffed mother says she can’t afford it and just paid her taxes, the state worker says, “I wasn’t talking to you,” while the camera zooms in on the toddler’s innocent face.
And then there is the radio ad by the Illinois Education Association. The ad paints a warm picture of teachers and attacks legislators who didn’t do their jobs. The scary part? It suggests attempts to fix the pension system will cost taxpayers $34 billion over the next 15 years.
Meanwhile, the first half of the six-day fall legislative session has come and gone. Thousands of union members, including teachers, rallied and screamed in Springfield last week about their fears of losing pensions, while state legislators nibbled at some pension fraud fixes and likely will use that to tell voters they solved problems.
None of this is going to solve the problem we all must face. The roiling rhetoric, the scares, the crisis avoidance has got to stop. If it doesn’t, yes, our children and grandchildren might feel the crushing burden. But this financial irresponsibility also affects Illinois now. It affects job creation and retention. It is a significant part of the reason Illinois doesn’t pay bills on time.
The IEA is right. Teachers do play a critical role. Teachers do not get Social Security. They do contribute about 10 percent to their pensions. And state legislators did create the crisis over decades by putting off state pension contributions.
But the time for blaming or avoiding the problem should have ended long ago. Despite what union leaders say, there is no talk, in a state now run thoroughly by Democrats, of taking anyone’s already-earned retirement funds away. There is talk of changing the system as it applies to future earnings to try to help fill what is an $85 billion unfunded pension hole. Perhaps the idea some Republicans have proposed to create a three-tiered system would cost $34 billion. It definitely would allow workers the choice of putting future earnings in a 401(k)-style fund, taking smaller benefits without paying more, or keeping their same benefit rate if they pay more. The problem state officials created is $85 billion large, not $34 billion. That much we know.
We hear there may be progress in the House, but not the Senate. Not good enough. Legislators, union and civic officials need to quit wasting time and money on ads and rhetoric that tell half truths. The truth is frightening enough. They all should sit down and find solutions. Start negotiating and compromising. They can drag this out and drive up the $85 billion price tag we all face, or they finally can be part of finding a solution.