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ere the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at: http://www.dukesblotter.com/#sthash.gzOejJCT.dpuf
Where the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at: http://www.dukesblotter.com/#sthash.gzOejJCT.dpuf

Officer Down

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Enjoying a Saturday

Unless anything drastic happens I will be back tomorrow.

Enjoy the day.

If you are working, as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus used to say "Let's be careful out there".


Friday, September 28, 2012

PENSION: (National) Judge Strikes Down Baltimore’s ‘Unconstitutional’ Pension Reform

--You are going to see a lot if not all of these cases being found in favor of the employees. The employers just don't know what they can and can't do.--
Duke

Story at ai-cio

 Monday, September 24, 2012
 3:39:01 PM

The Baltimore Fire and Police Retirement System may be once again on the hook for tens of millions in annual payouts that had been cut in a 2010 reform package.

(September 24, 2012) – A federal judge has overturned a key provision of Baltimore’s 2010 pension reform, calling changes to the cost-of-living adjustment "unconstitutional" and not "reasonable and necessary to serve an important public purpose."

“There was an important public purpose to be served by the restructuring of the Plan so as to restore it to actuarial soundness and sustainability,” Judge Marvin Garbis wrote in his ruling. “Hence, the City's impairment of Plaintiffs contract rights, including their rights to the Variable Benefit feature, could be Constitutionally valid if ‘reasonable and necessary.’ However, the City did not have total freedom to disregard its contractual obligations altogether.”

The city’s police and fire unions challenged Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s 2010 reforms in court, in the press, and on picket lines in front of City Hall.

To close the Baltimore Fire and Police Retirement System’s $121 million deficit, the city council had passed legislation increasing the years of service required of new hires for pension eligibility, fixing the annual cost-of-living adjustments at 1% and 2% for current and future retirees, hiking employees contributions from 6% of pay to 10%, and calculating benefits based on members’ average salary over the last three years, not 18 months. The mayor’s ordinance also stipulated that the City of Baltimore boost its contribution by about $20 million year-on-year.

Mercer consultants estimated that this package of reforms would reduce unfunded liabilities from $1.28 billion to $1.16 billion, despite adjusting the assumed rate of return from 8.25% down to 8%. Post-overhaul, Mercer calculated, Baltimore’s police and fire pension fund would be 88% funded, up from 84.8%.

In his ruling, Garbis agreed with a reworking of the Baltimore pension system in theory, but concluded that replacing the variable cost-of-living adjustment with a fixed annual increase unfairly impacted young employees.

“While the City was justified in acting to stabilize the actuarial footing of the Plan, the Ordinance scheme was not ‘necessary,’ in the sense that the impairment far more drastically impaired the contractual rights of some Plan members than others while a perfectly evident, more moderate and even-handed course would have served its purposes equally well,” he wrote.

George Nilson, the administration’s solicitor, told the Baltimore Sun that he was “almost certain” the city would appeal to a higher court.

Contact the writer of this story:
Leanna Orr
Assistant Editor
 646-308-2763
 lorr@assetinternational.com
Follow on Twitter at @ai_CIO

PAROLE ALERT: Cop Killer Larry Comfort

PAROLE DENIAL LETTER

I ask that you please DENY PAROLE to Larry Comfort, inmate #82C0274. This inmate participated in the brutal murder of New York State Police Investigator Robert Van Hall.

On Friday, December 5, 1980, Investigator Van Hall was conducting an undercover operation when he was brutally gunned down by #82C0274 and his brother. Investigator Van Hall was attempting to protect the citizens of New York from violent and heartless criminals like #82C0274. when he was taken from his wife and daughter.

*************************************************************************

OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE for INVESTIGATOR ROBERT VAN HALL, JR.

Investigator Robert Van Hall, Jr.
New York State Police, New York
End of Watch: Friday, December 5, 1980


Bio & Incident Details

Age: 35
Tour: Not available
Badge # Not available
Military veteran
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 12/5/1980
Weapon: Shotgun
Suspect: Convicted

Investigator Robert Van Hall was shot and killed as he and his partner attempted to arrest two brothers for trafficking cocaine and marijuana.

He was a passenger in an unmarked patrol car and was shot by the suspects with a shotgun. The two brothers were convicted of murder for killing Investigator Van Hall.

Investigator Van Hall was a Vietnam War veteran. He was survived by his wife and 14-year-old daughter.

PENSION: (Illinois) DOI Actuarial Changes Will Increase Employer Pension Funding Requirements

--None of this is any good forany of the pension systems in Illinois.
Changing assumptions, in my eyes, only serves to stir up the public against the public employees when the politicians start spewing useless numbers at them.
All they are doing is making it look like they need to pay more and it is our fault.--
Duke

Story ay Illinois Municipal League



By Roger Huebner, Deputy Executive Director & General Counsel, IML
Joe McCoy, Legislative Director, IML
Published on Thursday September 27, 2012

The Public Pension Division of the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) is announcing significant changes to their actuarial assumptions and mortality tables. In a recent meeting with IML staff, the Department confirmed that the changes will result in higher employer pension contributions for municipalities that use DOI's suggested tax levies to determine annual police and firefighter pension funding requirements.

The public safety pension reforms enacted into law in 2010 (P.A. 96-1495) required DOI to retain the services of an enrolled actuary. The Department has since engaged the services of the actuarial firm of Foster and Foster. Foster and Foster conducted an experience study that examined the actuarial assumptions utilized by DOI. The study determined that the actuarial assumptions in use were not reflective of actual fund performance and were therefore in need of revision.

As a result, the Department is revising their investment return assumptions (currently 7% for all funds) downward based upon fund asset size. The changes are as follows:

*   Funds with assets in excess of $10 million will see the assumed rate of return reduced to 6.75%.
*   Funds with assets between $5 million and $10 million see the assumed rate of return reduced to 6.50%.
*   Funds with assets between $2.5 million and $5 million will see the assumed rate of return reduced to 6%.
*   Funds with assets below $2.5 million will see the assumed rate of return reduced to 5%.

Salary increase assumptions are also being revised downward from the current 5% assumption to 4%. Overall payroll will be assumed to grow at 4.5% per year.

DOI informed IML staff that the smallest funds, those with less than $2.5 million in assets, will experience the most significant employer cost increase as a result of the various changes. This is, of course, if these funds utilize DOI suggested tax levies.

In addition to the changes being made to investment return assumptions, DOI is modernizing its mortality tables. The current mortality table was created during the 1970s and no longer reflects actual longevity and disability experience. The new mortality table will assume longer life spans for employees and, consequently, require employer contribution increases to fund a longer draw period.

DOI had suspended the issuance of suggested tax levies while undergoing the various changes required by P.A. 96-1495. With these changes largely completed, the Department will once again begin providing suggested tax levy reports to all downstate and suburban municipal police and firefighter pension funds beginning with fiscal years ending in May of 2011. Funds with annual statements filed and accepted as of Friday, October 12, 2012 will have a suggested tax levy generated no later than November 30, 2012.

PENSION: (Illinois) State paying 6-figure pension to ex-teachers union lobbyist

 "I followed what the law said," Purkey recalled in an interview, emphasizing that she had to pay heavily into the pension system to qualify.

I wonder which law she followed. 
Was it the same one that we follow? 
Or, was it on of those 'one  time' special laws they pass in Springfield for certain people? 
And I am sure her old boss, King Madigan, had absolutely nothing to do with this.
It seems the polidiots, lobbyists, and union bosses operate on a different set of laws. 
I would really to get a look at those statutes because they have this crap so well buried in the pension statutes and anywhere else they could hide it that is near impossible to find.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

Long-ago employee of House Speaker Madigan took advantage of 6-month window to rejoin retirement plan

September 23, 2012
By Ray Long
Chicago Tribune reporter

SPRINGFIELD — — A former lobbyist for a powerful teachers union is reaping a $100,000-a-year state pension thanks to wide-ranging retirement legislation sponsored nearly six years ago by her former boss, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and his legislative allies.

The 2007 law let Gail Purkey, who worked at two state jobs in the 1980s, receive a state pension based mostly on her long career and six-figure salary with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Tribune has found.

Purkey, 58, stands to collect a total of about $3 million if she lives to age 78, according to a Tribune analysis. Payroll records show that her last state salary was $36,800 — just over a third of her current state pension.

"I followed what the law said," Purkey recalled in an interview, emphasizing that she had to pay heavily into the pension system to qualify.

Under the 2007 pension law, employees of a statewide labor organization who had previously worked in Illinois government were given a special six-month window to rejoin the taxpayer-supported pension plan for rank-and-file state workers.

Without the change, Purkey may not have collected a state pension. She did not work at the two state jobs long enough to be vested, and Purkey said she cashed out about $5,000 in contributions to the pension plan when she took a position with the union. The Illinois Federation of Teachers is a statewide organization whose membership includes the Chicago Teachers Union.

The chance to rejoin the state workers' fund years later had such lucrative long-term potential that Purkey paid more than $600,000 for the opportunity, including rolling in other retirement fund dollars and writing personal checks.

Two other lobbyists for the Illinois Federation of Teachers used a different provision in the same 2007 law to line up hefty teacher pensions by subbing in a classroom for one day each. Angry lawmakers scaled back those benefits after Tribune and WGN-TV disclosures last fall, and Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation into law in January.

Those changes won't affect Purkey, whose retirement benefits represent another example of how legislators for years have tinkered with the pension code in ways that helped individuals or scored political points, often undermining the financial health of the pension funds.

Quinn and state lawmakers now are in a partisan deadlock over how to save money in one of the nation's worst-funded state pension systems, where debt could hit $93 billion next year.

Purkey's state employment included a stint in the 1980s working for Madigan's legislative staff while the Chicago Democrat served as minority leader and first became speaker. She later worked at the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency chaired by Madigan's wife, Shirley.

She spent less than seven years in those jobs before leaving Illinois government in 1988 for a position with the union, according to state payroll and pension records. She would have needed eight years to be eligible for a pension.

But the 2007 law, sponsored in the House by Madigan and handled by one of his top lieutenants, changed that. Today, Purkey's credited service with the State Employees' Retirement System includes not only her time working for the state, but also more than two decades as a union lobbyist and spokeswoman — enough time to qualify for free health coverage as well.

Her retirement checks are based on an average of Purkey's four highest salaries during her last 10 years with the union, or about $195,000, according to the pension system.

Two years into her retirement, Purkey already has collected more than $200,000, records show. She is getting $101,909 this year, and her pension grows with an annual 3 percent compounded cost-of-living increase every January.

The reform Quinn signed in January blocked two of Purkey's colleagues — Steven Preckwinkle, the union's political director, and lobbyist David Piccioli, a former Madigan staffer — from counting toward a teacher pension any union service before they subbed in a classroom.

The 2007 legislation passed in the post-election veto session in the fall of 2006. Days earlier, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich was re-elected, and Democratic legislative victories kept Madigan and then-Senate President Emil Jones in control of their chambers.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers had showered the Democratic trio with cash, dwarfing the money it sent to Republicans.

Blagojevich, who won the union's endorsement, got more than $515,000; Madigan, the state party chairman, and his rank-and-file candidates got about $567,000; Senate Democrats got roughly $388,000, according to an analysis by Kent Redfield, a campaign finance expert from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Giving Purkey the chance to buy so many years' worth of union time is equivalent to "bending the system to benefit the people on the inside" and a "good gamble" for her given that life expectancies are increasing, Redfield said.

 Republican Rep. David Leitch, a longtime banker from Peoria, said he opposed the measure because he is always leery of pension bills that emerge in a post-election veto session — a time when lame-duck lawmakers are freer to take controversial votes.

"Historically, that's where the most mischief has been played," said Leitch, one of only six House lawmakers to vote against the legislation. "Normally, my woofers and tweeters go off when I see a lame-duck pension bill."

Purkey said that she did not work on the bill when it passed the General Assembly, and that the option she eventually used to access the state pension system had been bandied about for years, including "pre-Blagojevich."

Asked why the bill passed when it did, she said, "I have no idea."

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown dismissed any connection between campaign contributions and the pension legislation, saying he doubted lawmakers voting on the bill had "any awareness" of the political donations.

After last fall's disclosures about Preckwinkle and Piccioli, Madigan said that he had not known they would qualify under the 2007 law, but that he also was "not surprised by anything in this building."

Brown also has said it is normal practice for the speaker to serve as lead sponsor of pension bills in the House to manage the flow of legislation on a complex topic. Further, Brown has said that Madigan was not the "chief architect" of the bill, and that then-Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Litchfield, tended to be the floor leader on financial matters. Hannig, who now works for Quinn, has said he did not remember how the bill came together.

Brown questioned how much detail Madigan would have had about potential beneficiaries of the legislation. Asked specifically if the speaker knew Purkey would benefit, Brown said, "I don't have any recollection of that."

In addition to Purkey, two other employees with the Illinois Federation of Teachers are participating in the state pension system under the same section of the law. They have not retired.

Once Purkey decided to take advantage of the pension perk, she had to shift money — $666,300 in all — into the state retirement fund in a series of transactions, then start paying into it while she worked at the union, according to interviews, emails and pension records. The money covered the employee and employer contributions that would have been required if she had been in the state fund all along, plus interest.

Purkey said she rolled over about $480,000 from her own retirement account, into which she and the teachers union both had paid. That purchased about 19 years of credit, according to Tim Blair, executive secretary of the pension system.

Among the other contributions from Purkey was $36,140 she paid for the nearly seven years she served in state government, Blair said.

"What did strike me as I looked at the numbers was HOW MUCH MONEY I contributed to participate" in the pension plan, Purkey wrote in an email to the Tribune. "Looking at that total really drove home to me the commitment I personally made to participate."

Purkey suggested it would be good if more people rejoined the pension system in the manner she did because the money they have to contribute — including back payments and interest — would "pay every dollar the actuaries said was required."

"I thought my participation was, in a very small, even microscopic way, a help to the system," Purkey wrote.

But what she paid in may not cover what she gets back. In less than seven years of retirement, Purkey's pension payouts would exceed the $666,300 she and the union contributed, records show.

Blair said requests from rank-and-file workers to buy time are not unusual, but the amount Purkey purchased is a rarity.

"Not often do you see that large amount of time authorized," Blair said. "It's unusual to have 19 years of time repaid with employee and employer contributions and interest. ... This is a really big number for us."

PENSION: (Chicago) Aldermen reminded of looming pension crisis

--Once again we see the problem being out off on pension reform.
The City of Chicago needs to stop giving loans to family members and friends out of the pension funds and then the money will be there.
Pension problems have been caused by mismanagement, misuse, and backroom deals for the chosen few.
Time to face up to what you have caused and time for you to fix it without hurting employees or tax payers.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

Emanuel, ally highlight need for overhaul

By Hal Dardick, Chicago Tribune reporter
11:48 PM CDT, September 26, 2012

One of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's top aides privately briefed aldermen on the city's pension woes Wednesday as the mayor's closest City Council ally prepared for hearings that will put city retirement fund officials in the hot seat.

Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott reminded council members that absent significant changes to pension plans, the city will be forced to drastically cut services, raise taxes or do both to close a funding gap that could reach $700 million in just a few years, aldermen said.

It wasn't the first time the council had been told about the city's looming financial cliff, but the latest warning comes as the Workforce Development and Audit Committee led by Ald. Patrick O'Connor, 40th, is preparing for a Monday hearing on pensions.

O'Connor has set aside six hours for aldermen to question top officials from five city pension funds about the depth of the problem. The pension leaders also will be asked to offer potential solutions.

The goal of the briefings is to bring aldermen up to speed before the hearing and in advance of the Illinois General Assembly's fall session in late November, said Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton. Lawmakers are looking to fix the state's woefully underfunded pension system, but the city also needs changes from Springfield to repair its retirement funds. Monday's hearing serves to publicly highlight the issue.

"Unfortunately, we have seen very little progress in Springfield on adopting pension reform," said Laurence Msall, president of the nonpartisan Civic Federation budget watchdog group that has long advocated for pension changes.

Hearing from pension officials also will help underscore for aldermen and the public "how real the crisis is, how soon the pension funds are going to run out of money and how changes in the benefits could both reduce the cost of the programs and stabilize the funds," Msall said.

But Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, questioned the need for the hearing.

"I don't know that we need six hours of hearings to say that we've got a pension problem in the state," Ramirez said, adding that O'Connor had not told him about Monday's meeting. "It would be interesting if they're going to have six hours of discussion as to how they're going to protect pensions for people that have paid into them their entire careers and played by the rules."

Absent a city pension overhaul, the fund for retired city firefighters would become insolvent in nine years, according to a city report issued two years ago. The police pension would go broke four years later. Funds for city laborers and municipal workers would be broke by 2030.

In May, Emanuel took the unusual step of going to Springfield to urge action on pensions, saying that the "day of reckoning has arrived." The mayor proposed raising retirement ages, instituting a decade-long freeze on cost-of-living increases for retired workers, requiring workers to pay more toward retirement and offering the option of 401(k)-style retirement plans for new workers. Union leaders suggested that parts of Emanuel's plan are unconstitutional.

But no action occurred during the spring session as lawmakers avoided a thorny issue in an election year. Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has predicted a pension overhaul package won't be approved until January. That's when more lame-duck lawmakers will be around to take controversial votes, and the bar to pass legislation with an immediate effective date drops from three-fifths to a simple majority.

During the aldermanic briefings, Scott also talked about pension woes at Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District, both of which are overseen by boards appointed by the mayor, aldermen said.

A state law approved a couple of years ago requires the city to start making payments by 2015 to fully fund the police and fire funds. The city now uses property taxes to cover pension costs, and without changes, aldermen were told they would have to raise that unpopular tax by up to 80 percent.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

R.I.P.: Deputy Sheriff Christopher Schaub

OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE

 Deputy Sheriff Christopher Schaub
Broward County Sheriff's Office, Florida
End of Watch: Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Bio & Incident Details

Age: 47
Tour: 22 years
Badge # 6591
Cause: Motorcycle accident
Incident Date: 9/26/2012
Weapon: Not available
Suspect: Not available

Deputy Sheriff Chris Schaub was killed in a motorcycle accident at the intersection of West McNab Road and North Andrews Avenue in Pompano Beach.

Deputy Schaub's motorcycle collided with a car in the intersection. He was flown to Broward Health Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries approximately four hours later.

Deputy Schaub had served with the Broward County Sheriff's Office for 22 years. He is survived by his son and daughter. His son also serves as a deputy with the agency.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Sheriff Al Lamberti
Broward County Sheriff's Office
2601 W. Broward Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Phone: (954) 831-8900

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

PENSION: (National) Moody's to Apply 5.5% Discount Rate to Governmental Plan - "Backdoor PEPTA?"

--I am not very well versed in financials, actuarials, etc but I can't see any of this as being good for the health and stability of pension plans.
If anyone would like to explain this stuff in normal terms, please go right ahead.--
Duke

Story at National Council on Teacher Retirement

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Moody’s has announced plans to adjust the pension liability and cost information reported by state and local governments and their pension plans, and has requested comments from interested parties.   In addition to using a uniform 5.5% discount rate for all plans, Moody’s intends to apply a single, 17-year amortization period to annual pension contributions, and replace asset smoothing with the market value of assets as of the actuarial reporting date.  The results, according to Moody’s own estimates, will be to nearly triple fiscal 2010 reported unfunded actuarial accrued liabilities for the 50 states and the local governments that Moody’s rates.  Ironically, while Moody’s thinks that these uniform standards will improve the comparability of pension information across governments, it has strongly opposed similar standardization efforts for credit rating agencies.  NCTR and NASRA are very concerned with the Moody’s proposal, and have drafted joint comments strongly objecting to the planned adjustments, which member retirement systems can also sign onto.  If Moody’s succeeds in their goal of publically restating governmental pensions’ unfunded liabilities using a discount rate based on a bond index, why would Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and certain other members of Congress need to continue to push for the adoption of a Federal law requiring the U.S. Treasury to provide virtually the same thing?

On July 2, 2012, Moody’s Investor s Service (“Moody’s”) announced that it was requesting comment from market participants on its plan to implement several adjustments to pension liability, asset, and cost information reported by state and local governments and their pension plans.  Initially, Moody’s placed a deadline of August 31, 2012, on its comment period, but later extended this until September 30th.

The Moody’s Proposal

Saying that "Pension liabilities are widely acknowledged to be understated," Moody's Managing Director Timothy Blake explained that the proposed adjustments would “improve the comparability and transparency of pension information across governments, enhancing our approach to rating state and local government debt."   In addition, the adjustments are intended to permit the assessment of the scale of pension liabilities in a way comparable to debt obligations.

Moody’s is considering four principal adjustments to as-reported pension information:
1. Multiple-employer cost-sharing plan liabilities will be allocated to specific government employers based on proportionate shares of total plan contributions, similar to the way in which the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has required cost-sharing plan liabilities to be allocated.

2. Accrued actuarial liabilities will be adjusted based on a high-grade long-term corporate bond index discount rate (5.5% for 2010 and 2011).  Moody’s says that it proposes to replace the varying discount rates with this uniform high-grade bond rate because investment return assumptions used by public plans today “are inconsistent with actual return experience over the past decade (when total returns on the S&P 500 index grew at about 4.1% annually);” a high-grade bond index is a reasonable proxy for government’s cost of financing portions of its pension liability with additional bonded debt; and high-grade bonds are an available investment that could be used in a low-risk strategy to “match-fund” pension assets and liabilities.

3. Asset smoothing will be replaced with reported market or fair value as of the actuarial reporting date.

4. Annual pension contributions will be adjusted to reflect the foregoing changes as well as a common amortization period of 17 years which reflects Moody’s estimate of the average remaining service life of employees based on a sample of public pension plans.  Moody’s says that this proposed adjusted contribution “translates our other adjustments into a pro-forma measure of annual fiscal burden that can be compared across plans and issuers, relative to capacity to pay.”

These adjustments are necessary in order “to address the fact that government accounting guidelines allow for significant differences in key actuarial and financial assumptions, which can make statistical comparisons across plans very challenging,” according to the formal Moody’s Request for Comment.

Based on Moody’s own analyses, the impact of the adjustments will be to significantly increase reported unfunded actuarial accrued liability and annual pension contributions:

* After adjusting for the discount rate alone, the State sector’s unfunded actuarial accrued  liabilities (UAAL) would grow 129% to $894 billion from $391 billion, decreasing the funded ratio to 55%.  With the additional adjustment of asset valuation, the State sector’s UAAL would grow to $1.056 trillion, or 74% of total annual State revenues, from $391 billion, or 28% of revenues, an increase of 170%.  This would further decrease the funded ratio to 46%.

* Adjustments to State sector annual pension contributions would result in an increase of 252%, from $36.6 billion to $128.8 billion, or from 2.6% of revenues to 9.1% of revenues.

* For the local government sector, the discount rate adjustment would increase the UAAL by 158%, to $967 billion from $375 billion, and reduce the funded ratio to 59% from 79%.  The asset value adjustment would likely result in an additional increase in UAAL to $1.135 trillion and a further reduction in the funded ratio to 52%.

* Adjustments to reported annual contributions for local governments are not made because the necessary data is not uniformly disclosed, according to Moody’s.

Moody’s says that it will publish its specific adjustments for states and selected local governments “when we have finalized our analytical approach later this year.”

NCTR Response

NCTR and NASRA take strong exception to Moody’s proposals for several reasons:


1. Moody’s proposed adjustments will reduce transparency and consistency in the analysis of pension liabilities by adding yet another set of calculations that will result in increased, widespread confusion and misunderstanding of the meaning and implication of public pension actuarial measures.

2. GASB, the public body charged with setting public pension plan financial rules, has just completed a comprehensive examination of public pension accounting that has taken more than 6 years to complete.  GASB considered the issue of the discount rate, and after careful analysis and public comment, it rejected the idea of a uniform rate in favor of a blended rate that more accurately reflects the unique composition of each pension system.  Thus, Moody’s decision to apply a rate based on long-term corporate bonds not only ignores the fact that this metric has been deemed inappropriate for the public sector, but also the fact that such rates are currently at historic lows.

3. The application of a single, 17-year amortization period fails to account for both the diversity of public pension plan demographic structures and the essentially perpetual nature of their plan sponsors.

4. The use of a point-in-time measure, in lieu of one that recognizes longer-term trends through the use of smoothing, will result in near-term volatility of pension plan funding conditions.  For an entity with virtually a perpetual expected life, a smoothed asset value more fairly reflects the true condition of the plan than does a “spot price’ as of the plan’s fiscal year-end date.

The NCTR/NASRA comment letter also points out that when Moody’s filed comments with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in February of 2011 in connection with the SEC’s Credit Rating Standardization Study, Moody’s opposed the imposition of uniform standards on credit rating agencies such as itself.  Arguing that increased transparency was a reasonable substitute for standardization, Moody’s stressed that “ratings cannot be reduced to an output from a formulaic methodology or model.”   Furthermore, Moody’s insisted that a single quantitative interpretation of credit factors “would miss a myriad of considerations that arise naturally in the rating process,” and that “a single-dimensioned definition likely would underemphasize ratings stability, which many investors value.”

NCTR and NASRA believe that these concerns about the application of uniform, standardized credit rating factors also apply to the analysis of public pensions, and that the new GASB standards, with their increased transparency,  will permit the public to develop an adequate and consistent understanding of the public pension community’s approach to the discount rate appropriate to each plan.     

Outlook

Will Moody’s change direction in response to these and other comments from public sector organizations, elected officials, and public pension actuaries?  And if they do not, will the presence of one more set of liability measurements be that problematic?

As we know, GASB, as the independent standard setter of generally accepted accounting principles for state and local governments, has already taken action in this area.  As the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) has pointed out in its comments, Moody’s “expedited three-month process of soliciting and collecting comments from stakeholders stands in marked contrast to the systematic and transparent approach used by the GASB over a three-year time period, which involved the issuance of no less than three separate due-process documents that preceded the final standard.”

Moody’s is a private sector organization with no mandate or authority to regulate public pension accounting or actuarial standards, and Moody’s has no accountability to GASB or other oversight bodies when it comes to its proposed adjustments.  Furthermore, Moody’s methodologies for rating state and local government debt already incorporate an analysis of pension obligations, underscoring the fact that seeking public “feedback” is not necessary for them to make such changes.  Indeed, a close reading of their request for comments reveals that they are not seeking advice as to whether or not to proceed, but rather to see if their adjustments will be seen as useful in enhancing the comparability of pension obligations among state and local government entities. 

Therefore, it would appear that Moody’s is committed to making its proposed adjustments.  It firmly believes that they “are material, feasible and practical given current disclosures.”   Finally, on August 17th, when Moody’s extended it deadline for comments to September 30th, it also released a “Frequently Asked Questions” document intended to provide responses to questions that have been raised by investors, issuers and other interested parties.  In this document, Moody’s indicates that it will publish its specific adjustments for states and selected local governments “when we have finalized our analytical approach later this year. “  Note that they say “when,” not “if.”

So what would be the significance of Moody’s actions?  After all, Moody’s goes out of its way to state that its proposal “is not intended to provide an alternate or replacement actuarial valuation of public pension liabilities.”   Furthermore, Moody’s says that “We are not suggesting that [Moody’s adjustments] be a guide, standard or requirement for a state or local governments to fund these obligations.”  Finally, with regard to its proposed adjustments to annual contributions, Moody’s states that “We would not intend it to be a prescriptive funding strategy.”

Nevertheless, a new set of public pension liabilities – in addition to the actuarial calculation required to meet new GASB requirements and another to inform policymakers of the plan’s funding requirements --  will, at best, be confusing to decision makers and to the public, compounding the selective use that already surrounds these various measurements of liabilities.  At worst, the new Moody’s numbers, coming from an organization with a high profile and degree of credibility, will be seen as an independent,  third-party reliable source of information.  And notwithstanding Moody’s representations to the contrary, what is the purpose of measuring a financial obligation if not to assist it satisfying it?

In short, many are concerned that the new Moody’s numbers will become a generally acceptable benchmark, free from the taint of politics and abstract academic theory.  And if this happens, it would seem to satisfy one of the primary goals of the “Public Employee Pension Transparency Act” (PEPTA), which is to have public pension liabilities restated using a bond rate as the discount rate.
Indeed, in many ways, having the Moody’s adjustments would be worse than having  PEPTA, in that the Moody’s process is not dependent upon Federal appropriations to fund the development of a Treasury database, nor the annual filing of such information by pension plans, all of which could take several years to fully implement.  Instead, as Moody’s has indicated, it intends to have these new, adjusted numbers available by the end of this year.

Therefore, the filing of comments, however convincing they may be, may not be sufficient to alter Moody’s intended course of action.   Accordingly, it is very important that elected officials involved with the obtaining of credit ratings for municipal bonds make their concerns known to Moody’s in as direct a manner as is possible.  Given that Moody’s has indicated that its proposed changes could have an impact on ratings for local governments “where the adjusted liability is outsized for the rating category and without mitigating factors such as demonstrated flexibility to respond to higher fixed costs,”  it is particularly important that local officials make their voices heard.  NCTR is working with national organizations representing State and local governments to ensure that they are aware of the implications of Moody’s actions.

Investment performance and the discount rate have a considerable effect on a pension plan’s current and projected cost and funding condition.  Applying a single discount rate to measure these plans will result in distortion and confusion, not clarity and transparency, and any comparability among plans will not be meaningful.  State and local government officials need to understand this and to convey their concerns to Moody’s as soon as is possible.  NCTR members are encouraged to help in this educational process, and to this end, comment letters from national organizations and actuarial firms with a deep understanding of public pensions may be very helpful.  Links to several of these are found below.  NCTR members are also encouraged to file their own comment with Moody’s, or join in signing onto the joint NCTR/NASRA letter, a link to which is also provided.  Please contact Leigh Snell, NCTR’s Director of Federal Relations, at lsnell@nctr.org to add your system to this letter.

CHICAGO OUTFIT: 1 year for Rudy 'the Chin' Fratto in bid-rigging scheme

--What is there to say?--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Annie Sweeney
Tribune reporter
11:09 AM CDT, September 26, 2012


Rudy "The Chin" Fratto arrives at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse today for his sentencing in a contract-rigging scheme. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune / September 26, 2012)
Reputed Outfit lieutenant Rudy Fratto, nicknamed “the Chin,” was sentenced to about 1 year in prison today for a bid-rigging scheme at McCormick Place.

Fratto’s family was visibly relieved when U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber announced the sentence.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for Fratto to be sentenced to up to 2 years in prison, but federal prosecutors sought an even stiffer prison term, arguing Fratto used his association with organized crime to further the scheme. He is an alleged member of the Outfit’s Elmwood Park street crew.

But Leinenweber ruled the evidence was unclear that Fratto was a made member of the mob and he couldn’t make a connection between Fratto’s wrongdoing and organized crime. He also noted Fratto’s age of 68.

An attorney for Fratto sought probation, saying he had two sons in college who needed his financial support and a wife with serious health problems.

Fratto pleaded guilty last October to using confidential pricing information about competitors’ bids to undercut the competition and come in with the low bid on forklift contracts for two trade expositions at McCormick Place.

Leinenweber also extended Fratto’s surrender date to prison until Jan. 8, allowing him to be with family for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. 

UNION: (National) Wis. AG Aims to Enforce Union Law During Appeals

--Walker and his merry band anti-labor lackeys are going to do everything they can to fight to take away labor rights. 
If they don't, their super pac money from the Koch brothers will go somewhere else. And they will do everything they can to get Walker out of office and replace him with a lackey that can get the job done for them.--
Duke

Story at ABC News

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press
MADISON, Wis.
September 15, 2012 (AP)

Wisconsin's attorney general said Saturday he would seek court permission to keep enforcing a state law that effectively ended collective bargaining for public employees while his office appeals a judge's ruling striking it down.

A Dane County judge issued a ruling Friday overturning almost all of the law that has been a hallmark of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's tenure and helped turn him into a national conservative hero.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, also a Republican, said in a statement that he believes the law "is constitutional in all respects" and should remain in effect while he appeals the judge's decision.

Walker's office also has vowed to appeal, while the public worker unions that vigorously opposed law have hailed the decision as a victory.

As has been the case since Walker proposed the law shortly after taking office in 2011, the latest developments have been highly political.

The judge who overturned the law, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas, was appointed to the bench by Walker's predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. In a statement issued after the ruling, Walker criticized Colas as a "liberal activist judge."

Meanwhile, the governor's appeal is likely to end up before the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Supreme Court.

In a 27-page ruling, Colas said the law violates the state and federal constitutions. He wrote that sections "single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions."

Colas also said the law violates the equal protection clause by creating separate classes of workers who are treated differently and unequally.

The ruling throws into question changes that have been made in pay, benefits and other work conditions for city, county and school district workers. The law only allowed for collective bargaining on wage increases no greater than the rate of inflation; all other issues, including workplace safety, vacation and health benefits could no longer be bargained for.

PENSION: (Illinois) Stipends for county officials cost state $3.4 million

--The polidiots just keep raping the tax payers and blaming the employees.
Time for people to wake up and start demanding answers to some tough questions from the polidiots.--
Duke

Story at Daily Herald



By Jake Griffin

It’s hard to find anyone who supports a state program that pays some 500-plus county officials $6,500 stipends each year just for holding elected posts.

Except those who receive the stipend, that is. But even among that group, support is waning.

“I think they’ll be taken away,” said Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, one of the recipients. “Do I think they’re necessary? In the big scheme of things, in a multi-billion-dollar budget, it’s not a big deal. But it’s a big deal now because people hate elected officials and think they’re overpaid.”

This year, 531 county clerks, court clerks, sheriffs, auditors, recorders, coroners and treasurers received the stipends, which amounted to more than $3.4 million, according to Illinois comptroller financial records. The stipend is considered part of an elected official’s salary, so it also boosts his or her pension and increases the cost to taxpayers of covering those benefits.

“There may have been a good reason for the state to pay the stipend years ago when government salaries were low, or in counties where the jobs are part-time,” said Andy Shaw, president of the Better Government Association. “But public officials in big counties around Chicago are very well compensated by county taxpayers and don’t need or deserve a bonus from the state, especially when the bonuses are also used to boost pensions, which adds millions of additional dollars in pension obligations.”

Analysis of payroll and pension data shows some suburban county officials could receive as much as $60,000 more during the first 10 years of retirement because of the stipends’ impact.

“That’s not good that it counts toward the pension,” said state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat who has proposed legislation in the past to cut the stipends. “That’s like going to a restaurant and basing the tip on the tax as well as the food you bought.”

The Illinois Association of County Officials has fought past efforts in the legislature to end the stipends, but leaders within that organization are starting to buckle as well. They say some of the county officials downstate rely on those stipends much more than their suburban counterparts, most of whom make six-figure salaries.

“This is going to upset some members up north, but the impact of those stipends is really felt in the southern two-thirds of the state,” said Frank Heiligenstein, president of the state organization and a county board member in downstate St. Clair County. “The larger the county, the larger the salary we’re dealing with, so once a salary gets over the $100,000 threshold there needs to be some consideration given to eliminating that stipend.”

In many cases, the stipends have been around for decades. Others were instituted when county officials complained their posts weren’t receiving the extra money from the state, Heiligenstein said.

Various state departments are responsible for funding the stipends depending on the county officials that receive them. The Illinois Department of Revenue covers stipends for auditors, coroners, treasurers and sheriffs.

“The stipends were created to provide the county with enough money so they can hire somebody with appropriate skills,” said Sue Hofer, spokeswoman for the revenue department.

Heiligenstein said they served another purpose as well.

“There are a lot of mandated policies from the state and counties have these stipends to help cover their (costs),” he said. “I can see where the stipends ease the pain a little bit.”

But critics scoff at that notion, pointing out that the stipends don’t go into an office’s general fund, but directly into the wallets of the elected officials.

“We, in effect, have taxpayers paying twice for the job,” said state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Democrat from Park Ridge. “The issue is whether state government should be subsidizing or incentivizing a service that local government is providing and taxpayers there are already paying for.”

Pappas, who makes $105,000 a year, complained that she hadn’t received a raise in more than a decade. Her counterpart in DuPage County, Gwen Henry, said the county board takes the state stipend into consideration when they set her salary, which at $135,762 is the highest among county treasurers in the collar counties.

“From the standpoint that if the county is reducing the salary to compensate for the stipend, then they’re fair,” she said. “It’s supposedly making up for the work we do that pertains to the state.”

But Henry acknowledges the stipend she receives is the only money her office receives for such state work.

These stipends are similar to a program the state instituted in 1984 that pays township assessors $3,000 annual bonuses if the assessment figures are done correctly. Those bonuses, outlined in a recent Daily Herald Suburban Tax Watchdog column, have cost taxpayers as much as $650,000 a year statewide. So far in 2012, the combined cost of the county stipends and the assessment bonuses is $3,782,315, according to comptroller records.

“What they raise in question is whether they are the best way for taxpayers to fund these offices,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Chicago-based Civic Federation, a government finance research organization. “It appears as if they are not connected to actual operations and performance of the various offices.”

Msall said the state’s $5.8 billion in unpaid bills, according to Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, should spur the legislature to take action.

“It’s hard to believe that these local government stipends are a higher priority than the unpaid bills and obligations of the state,” he said. “Every dollar the state spends in times of enormous debt has to be analyzed and scrutinized.”

Despite the state’s financial challenges and what many critics consider “low-hanging fruit,” Kotowski doesn’t believe the stipends will be eliminated without a fight.

“There are a lot of sacred cows that unfortunately still exist in the state budget,” he said. “It’s going to take time to dismantle.”

PENSION: (Illinois) Public sector unions may have overreached

--I get what is being said here and i even agree with some of it.
I don't think we can blame the rank and file union members for most of the problems.
Most of the blame has to go to the union bosses and politicians that made back room deals for money and benefits and left the members to take the fall.--
Duke

Story at Quad Cities Online

Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2012, 5:00 am
By Jim Nowlan

As in a conflict-laden marriage, management and labor have coexisted uneasily, sometimes violently, since the early days of American labor organizing in the 1800s. Today, however, most private sector unions are hollow shells of their former selves, while public sector unions, especially state government and teacher unions, have become leading forces in the American labor movement.

But the public unions may have over-reached in recent years.

Since the 1970s, when they first were able to bargain legally and exclusively, state government and teacher unions in Illinois have grown in power, to the extent that their contracts include protections that should be the prerogatives of management.

I am not a union basher. In the 20th century, labor unions were central to the development of a broad middle class. In recent years, however, manufacturing jobs have declined sharply, and low-skill labor has become a global commodity, which has forced organized labor to accept some humiliating contracts.

In contrast, government unions have developed political muscle in the Illinois state legislature. Dues from the 97 percent of state employees who belong to unions and from teachers across the state have given the unions millions of dollars every two years to lobby effectively for their objectives and to campaign forcefully for and against legislators and gubernatorial candidates.

I recall that in his successful 1976 campaign for his first term as governor, Republican Jim Thompson received $80,000 from the Illinois Education Association, one of the state's two big teacher unions. This was by far his largest contribution, and that to the candidate of the party that usually supports management.

Later, Thompson approved collective bargaining for teachers.

With their power, the unions included protections in their contracts far beyond wages and benefits. For example, on page 5 of the present 174-page master contract between the state and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the union is given the right to reject "the abolition or merger of job classifications." If there is no agreement, the issue goes to binding arbitration.

To me, this is clearly and solely a management prerogative, especially in times of fiscal constraint when staffing charts need to be reorganized.

Other union principles on which public sector unions have been successful include strict seniority preferences and the right to bump less senior employees, which also limit management in selecting the best candidates for particular jobs.

Management has not been blameless over the years. For example, state administrations have in years past abused job reclassification as a way of ridding agencies of employees from previous administrations. Management simply eliminated one classification, which eliminated those in the position, and wrote a new, similar classification.

And so, the tussle between labor and management will continue in legislatures and in bargaining negotiations.

In recent years, however, the public unions have been put on the defensive. This past year, Wisconsin famously limited collective bargaining rights (which a lower court has just reversed). Earlier, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels eliminated collective bargaining for state employees by executive order (which cannot be done in Illinois; it would take legislation); he also stimulated successful legislation that limited teacher bargaining to wages and benefits.

In Illinois, a legislature dominated by Democrats (the party of labor) trimmed pension benefits for new employees and is contemplating trimming those of current employees.

Further, Democratic lawmakers who are spearheading education reforms achieved enactment of a bill that requires test scores to be a part of teacher evaluations, a policy long opposed by teacher unions.

Because Democratic leaders have already stuck a stick in the eye of labor with these changes, I don't expect the present Democratic Illinois legislature to go further and join Wisconsin and Indiana, which have Republican-led legislatures, in limiting collective bargaining rights on the issues I think should be management prerogatives.

There is one area where the Legislature might act.

During the administrations of ex-governor Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn, state government unions were awarded large pay increases in their contracts, something like 34 percent in the past decade. Many outside observers feel the generous pay provisions were awarded as a way to generate enthusiastic support from union members in the governors' re-election campaigns. In other words, the governors were on the same side of the bargaining table as the unions.

I do think the Legislature might be willing to join Connecticut in requiring the Legislature to approve collective bargaining contracts arrived at between unions and possibly politically motivated governors. This could provide a check on excessively generous contracts.

Jim Nowlan is a former Illinois legislator and state agency director. He is a senior fellow at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

PAROLE ALERT: Cop Killer Andrew J. Braden III

PAROLE DENIAL LETTER

I ask that you please DENY PAROLE parole to Andrew J. Braden III, TOMIS ID 00093383. This inmate's violent murder of Patrolman William Whitwell should preclude any consideration for parole.

On Sunday, April 5, 1981, Patrolman Whitwell, of the Columbia Police Department, was murdered with his own service weapon while protecting the citizens of Tennessee from violent inmates like #00093383.

****************************************************************************

OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE for PATROLMAN WILLIAM WHITWELL

Patrolman William Larry Whitwell
Columbia Police Department, Tennessee
End of Watch: Sunday, April 5, 1981


Bio & Incident Details

Age: 34
Tour: Not available
Badge # Not available
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 4/5/1981
Weapon: Officer's handgun
Suspect: Sentenced to life

Patrolman William Whitwell was shot and killed with his own weapon after stopping a vehicle for speeding.

Unbeknownst to Patrolman Whitwell, the two occupants had just robbed a local fast food restaurant. As he was talking with the men the robbery call was broadcast over the radio and Patrolman Whitwell observed a money bag in the vehicle. A struggle ensued and Patrolman Whitwell was shot with his own weapon.

Both suspects fled but were later apprehended and sentenced to life.

Patrolman Whitwell was survived by his wife and son.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

R.I.P.: Sergeant Mary K. Ricard

OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE

Sergeant Mary K. Ricard
Colorado Department of Corrections, Colorado
End of Watch: Monday, September 24, 2012


Bio & Incident Details

Age: 55
Tour: 9 years
Badge # Not available
Cause: Assault
Incident Date: 9/24/2012
Weapon: Person
Suspect: In custody

Sergeant Mary Ricard was killed when she and another correction's sergeant were attacked by an inmate at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Crowley, Colorado.

The inmate attacked the two in the kitchen area of the medium-security prison while breakfast was being served. The inmate was able to inflict serious wounds on both sergeants before being subdued. Sergeant Ricard succumbed to her injuries while the other sergeant remains in critical condition.

Sergeant Ricard had served with the Colorado Department of Corrections for nine years.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Executive Director Tom Clements
Colorado Department of Corrections
2862 South Circle Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Phone: (719) 226-4701

PAROLE ALERT: Cop Killers Randy Fellows & Fred Joseph Jr

PAROLE DENIAL LETTER

I ask that you DENY PAROLE to Randy Fellows (#A173423) and Fred Joseph Jr (#A174221). These two inmates brutally murdered Patrolman John Utlak, of the Niles Police Department, in 1982.

Patrolman Utlak was protecting the citizens of Ohio from heartless criminals like A173423 & A174221 when he was so savagely taken from his family.

*****************************************************************************

OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE for PATROLMAN JOHN A UTLAK

Patrolman John A. Utlak
Niles Police Department, Ohio
End of Watch: Wednesday, December 8, 1982


Bio & Incident Details

Age: 26
Tour: 5 years
Badge # 23
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 12/8/1982
Weapon: Handgun; .22 caliber
Suspect: Sentenced to life

Patrolman John Utlak was shot and killed by two juvenile suspects during an undercover narcotics investigation. Patrolman Utlak was meeting with the two suspects when he was shot three times with a .22 caliber handgun. His body was found the following day in a parking lot on Hunter Street.

Patrolman Utlak and his partner had met the with the suspects on two prior occasions and were using them as informants in a case. Patrolman Utlak was meeting with the suspects alone because his partner had the day off. The two suspects were apprehended several days later in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The suspects were returned to Ohio and the 18-year-old suspect who shot him was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison with eligibility for parole. He has his first parole hearing in October of 2012.

Patrolman Utlak had served with the agency for five years. He was survived by his parents and sister.

PENSION: (Illinois) State prepares to give pension amendment an advertising push

--So the polidiots are going to spend millions of dollars to get word out to voters about a resolution that will do nothing to fix the problems we are facing with the pensions?
YEP! Sounds like Illinois.
Needing a 3/5ths majority vote to make changes to the pension statutes is idiotic to say the least. The damage has been done.
What the Illinois State Legislature needs to do is make it part of the law that they will no longer be able to use pension money for their little pet projects any longer.
What a waste this place is.--
Duke

Story at Herald Review

September 23, 2012 12:01 am
By KURT ERICKSON
H&R Springfield Bureau Chief

Click on the image to download the resolution and the pamphlet you will be getting in the mail. The pamphlet starts on page 6.

SPRINGFIELD — A pamphlet explaining the ins and outs of a proposed constitutional amendment should begin arriving in mailboxes across Illinois within the next two weeks.

The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office is gearing up to mail 5.6 million of the fliers at a cost of $1.7 million, beginning Oct. 5.

The taxpayer-paid pamphlets, which are being printed in English, Spanish, Chinese, Polish and Hindi, will outline a proposal designed to make it harder for state and local governments to sweeten public-sector pensions.

The question on the ballot asks whether a three-fifths vote should be required when city councils, school districts, state lawmakers or other local government officials want to increase employee retirement plans.

The proposal comes as the General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn remain at loggerheads over how to resolve an $83 billion-plus gap in the state’s pension funding.

With the legislature unlikely to take any action to overhaul pensions for school teachers, university workers and other state employees until next year, the constitutional amendment question could serve as a referendum on what Illinois residents want the House and Senate and Quinn to do.

But unions representing government workers said they are educating their members to vote “no” on the “phony” amendment.

“For decades, politicians skipped payments, running up the pension debt. Now that the bill is due, they’re trying to blame teachers, police officers, caregivers and other public employees and retirees. Instead of putting in place an ironclad guarantee that politicians will pay their share going forward, they’re clamoring to change the constitution in a way that won’t do a thing to fix the funding problem,” noted Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the amendment is a “common-sense” way to address future pension abuses.

“There is no claim that this is some kind of solution to the pension problem. It’s just another step in what is going to be a long road to keep the pensions stable and viable,” Brown said.

In addition to setting a higher threshold for approving pension sweeteners, the proposal also asks whether the constitution should require a two-thirds vote for lawmakers to override a governor’s veto or accept a governor’s proposed changes in a rewrite of pension increase legislation. Currently, it takes a three-fifths vote to override an outright veto and only a simple majority to accept a governor’s changes.

The history of constitutional amendments shows that voter approval is not guaranteed.

Kevin Semlow, director of legislative services for the Illinois Farm Bureau, recently looked the numbers and found that more than 900 proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced in the General Assembly since the state’s current constitution was adopted in 1970.

Of those, just 16 have been placed on the ballot. One other initiative was placed on the ballot through the voter initiative provision of the constitution.

“Of the 17 proposed amendments placed on the ballot, only 10 have been ratified by the voters,” Semlow wrote in a recent report.

In addition to the mailers, Henry Haupt, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White, said the office will begin paying for newspaper advertisements about the amendment to run Oct. 1. The ads are supposed to be printed in one newspaper in each of Illinois’ 102 counties.