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Officer Down

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

PENSION: (Illinois) Pension reform elusive in Illinois

--It is my opinion that NOTHING will be done on August 17 concerning pension reform.
All that will occur is the stage being set for the upcoming elections and the lame duck session at the end of the year.
As long as we allow the same old people to perform the same old song and dance in Springfield we will have to sit and watch Mike Madigan and company screw the state up even more. 
We are in need of serious pension overhaul not reform but even more so we are in dire need of politician overhaul. Starting with Pat Quinn, Mike Madigan, Tom Cross, and John Cullerton.--

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Rick Pearson
Chicago Tribune reporter
9:15 PM CDT, July 31, 2012

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, left, a House Democratic point person on pension reform: “Right now, you have (local school districts) setting wages and benefits and sending the bill to somebody else. That doesn’t create the right incentives.” (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune / July 31, 2012)

When lawmakers left the Statehouse at the end of May, the problem of fixing the nation's most underfunded state public employee pension system was left unresolved amid myriad political concerns and divides.

Despite Gov.Pat Quinn's decision to call lawmakers into special session Aug. 17 to deal with the state's pensions, the political issues remain and may have intensified over the past two months as a crucial election nears.

The Democratic governor acknowledged that his call for lawmakers to return to Springfield was driven more by fear that the state's credit rating could be shredded further, raising borrowing and construction costs, than by a belief that a deal was close at hand.

"We have to deal with the credit-rating agencies. They wear green eyeshades. The idea that we have plenty of time is not always the right way to look at it," Quinn said late Monday after appearing on a special on Tribune Co.-owned CLTV about the state's pension problem.

"Don't be too skeptical here," he cautioned a reporter. "I don't think most people in politics are excited about this. That's one reason to be there (in Springfield). We want to do the whole thing, and I think there are people who do want to do the whole thing and get it resolved once and for all."

To do so will require a comprehensive deal involving both Democrats and Republicans that spreads any political fallout or blame. But recent examples of such a product involving a major issue out of politically polarized Springfield are few.

The depth of the state's pension problem remains unknown. Though the five state pension systems have an unfunded liability of $83 billion, that number is based on the assumption that the funds' investments would produce an 8.5 percent rate of return. Under new reporting rules, using a more realistic rate of return on investment, the pension system's true liability is likely tens of billions of dollars more.

With campaigning well under way for a Nov. 6 general election in which all 177 House and Senate seats are up for election, the political pressures are intense.

Quinn and leading Democrats want suburban and Downstate school districts to assume the cost of teacher and administrative pensions largely borne by the state as part of a comprehensive plan to overhaul benefits. Urged on by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Democrats contend that Chicago taxpayers are covering city teacher pensions through local property taxes while unfairly paying the pensions of educators outside the city through state taxes.

"The cost shift, and I would agree with the governor, creates accountability," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook, a House Democratic point person on pension reform. "Right now you have (local school districts) setting wages and benefits and sending the bill to somebody else. That doesn't create the right incentives."

Republicans label the cost-shift proposal a nonstarter that carries the potential for higher property taxes. The also say it's irrelevant to the larger pension benefit issue.

"I want to make it clear a cost shift is a red herring here," said Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno of Lemont. "We need pension reform. We can talk about who pays what at any point in time. That is not what this discussion is about. To bog it down with that is to doom the discussion to failure."

Republicans say Quinn should push some of the proposals he discussed last spring, like requiring employees to pay more for retirement and boosting the retirement age.

Some Democrats fear alienating a core constituency — organized labor — by moving on public employee pensions.

Before lawmakers left Springfield on May 31, the Senate passed a measure that would impose changes on state worker and legislative pensions, but it left out other pension systems, including teachers'. For the measure to take effect immediately, the House would have to pass it with a virtually impossible three-fifths majority.

Even if a version of the plan were modified to take effect next July, requiring only a simple 60-vote majority in the House, the chamber's Republican leader, Tom Cross of Oswego, said sending such a bill to Quinn would be a "cop-out."

"If you do that, there's a lawsuit immediately. Then everyone says we don't have to do (the other pension systems)," Cross said. "I think you get one good shot at this, you have to do it right, you have to be comprehensive. If we just do this one … I think it causes more problems than good."