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Officer Down

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

PENSION: Momentum for SB 2404 Builds in Media

--Unfortunately the theatrics that is Springfield will NEVER end and we will not get a fair deal.--


May 14, 2013

In recent days, the We Are One Illinois union coalition has aggressively promoted in the media SB 2404 -- the agreement between the coalition and Senate President John Cullerton. Below are excerpts from op-eds authored by coalition leaders as well as a positive editorial from Springfield's State Journal-Register.

Cinda Klickna, president of the Illinois Education Association, wrote a May 12 op-ed published in the Daily Herald after participating in a forum hosted by the Chicagoland paper. An excerpt:

    To move toward a better Illinois, the state Senate must reject House Speaker Michael Madigan's pension bill, SB 1. In addition, both the Illinois Senate and House must pass, and Gov. Pat Quinn must sign, SB 2404. ...

    SB 1 imposes drastic benefit cuts on the pensions of current retirees and active employees....While the backers of SB 1 are promising billions of dollars in savings, in truth there will be no savings at all. That's because SB 1 blatantly violates the Illinois Constitution's pension protection clause, which states that pension benefits "shall not be diminished or impaired."

    Interestingly, even SB 1's backers don't claim it will survive a court challenge. Their reaction is, "Let's find out."

    That irresponsible approach to public policy caused the mess that Illinois is dealing with now. We have to be smart and pass constitutional bills....

    The alternative to unconstitutional SB 1 is SB 2404, the product of months of intense negotiations between Senate President Cullerton and the unions comprising the We Are One Illinois labor coalition (including the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, AFSCME, SEIU and the AFL-CIO).

    A key element in SB 2404 is the language that guarantees pension funding. This will help guard against a repeat of the mistakes made by politicians of the past.

    While both bills employ a "choice" concept to meet the constitutional challenge, only the Cullerton-Coalition bill provides something of value in exchange for a participant agreeing to a benefit change.

    The unions believe SB 2404 is constitutional, and we urge that it be passed.

Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, responded to several misrepresentations in a Chicago Sun-Times editorial. Carrigan's letter-to-the-editor was published on May 12. An excerpt:

    [W]e need to work with facts, not misrepresentations....[T]he “behavior” that “got us into trouble” was politicians’ failure to make required contributions year after year, even as employees faithfully made theirs. SB 2404 contains the most iron-clad guarantee anyone has been able to devise to compel politicians to pay.

    The Sun-Times claim that the bill would “backload payments over a 30-year schedule” is also misleading. Any attempt to deal with the mountain of pension debt must be spread over the coming decades or Illinois will not be able to meet other obligations to creditors or citizens. You call the savings from SB 2404 “relatively little.” That’s a strange way to describe $46 billion — especially since every penny comes from teachers, nurses, correctional officers and other public employees and retirees who have already paid their share.

    This is not a competition to save the most and in turn hurt working families. SB 2404 is a more moral approach to fixing Illinois’ fiscal problems. Pensions are a promise made to employees and given protection by our state’s constitution. Yet for decades the political leadership borrowed from public employees’ pension funds to pay for other programs — education, public safety, environmental protection and more. Why should public employees and retirees now be expected to bear the burden of paying back the money? The Sun-Times isn’t calling on bondholders or state vendors to forgo the state’s obligations to them. Why would you try to compel teachers, nurses and state police to do something you wouldn’t consider asking others to do?

    Our unions came only reluctantly to support SB 2404. We have done so because the alternative proposals before the General Assembly would make much harsher cuts to benefits that employees have already earned and paid for. SB 2404 is the best opportunity before us to bring fiscal stability to the state’s pension funds, and the state budget in a fair and responsible manner.

Our efforts helped to yield a positive editorial on SB 2404 from the State Journal-Register, Springfield's paper of record. An excerpt:

    There’s an important distinction between the two plans. Madigan’s reforms save more money but probably do not pass constitutional muster. While Cullerton’s plan saves less, its virtue is that it was carefully crafted with an eye toward surviving a legal challenge. ... [T]he Illinois Constitution is not like those of other states where lawmakers can simply snap their fingers, change benefits and wash away a tide of red ink.

    Some people expect the legislature to lob a solution at the state Supreme Court and see what sticks. But the delay that would cause could worsen the fiscal problems they profess to want to solve.

    If lawmakers approve [SB 1] and Gov. Pat Quinn signs it, the unions will be waiting at the courthouse to file an immediate lawsuit. And they will have an excellent case because of the Constitution’s mandate that pension benefits are a contractual relationship that cannot be diminished. ...

    If Madigan’s plan is shot down by the courts, the savings to Illinoisans is not $140 billion. It’s $0. Then the legislature would have to begin the debate all over again, and members of this community would have to worry anew about their retirement security.