House committee approves pension cuts

House committee approves pension cuts

SPRINGFIELD -- Pension benefits could be reduced for thousands of retirees and active state employees under a plan approved by an Illinois House committee Tuesday morning.

The legislation, SB 1673, was approved 6-3 by the House Personnel and Pensions Committee. Five of the "yes" votes came from Democrats. One Republican member of the panel voted "yes" while three others voted "no."

The legislation faces an uncertain future on the House floor because most of the chamber's Republicans oppose it on grounds that it could lead to local property tax increases. One of the provisions of the bill requires that universities and school districts assume the responsibility of covering retirement costs, beginning in July 2013. The cost assumption will be phased in over several years.

The bill could be voted on by the full House as soon as today.

"I would simply like to make the point," said House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, a sponsor of the bill, "that there is a concept in America that we all strive to live under which is called responsibility. Responsibility for our actions.

"And if one person can spend money and send the bill to someone else, that's not responsible. That's not responsibility. It's unAmerican."

Madigan told his colleagues that "we have been called on to administrer a lot of tough medicine" in the spring session of the Legislature, including cuts to Medicaid and state employees' health insurance coverage.

'I have said to people from the beginning of the session that service this year in the General Assembly is not for the faint of heart," Madigan said. "But as the sponsor of this bill I am telling working men and women that their cost of living adjustment is not going to be as rich. It will still be there, it will just not be as rich. That's tough medicine."

Earlier, University of Illinois President Robert Easter told the committee that the UI supported the pension changes.

"We're very troubled by the need to have to pick up these costs," Easter said in an interview after the hearing, "but we're troubled significantly by the instability and the lack of confidence in the current system. People who have opportunities to go elsewhere or people who are long-term employees deserve to have some confidence that the system will be there as well."

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Fedupwithstatereps wrote on May 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm

The reform bill does NOT affect our state legislators or judges.  How convenient is that?

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Yep; they made sure that their employer pension payments were made regularly into their pension systems.  They skipped the other three pension systems payments.  The state employees, university employees, and teachers paid their portion out of every paycheck.  They legislators when asked about not skipping payment into their pensions systems, stated the "costs were insignificant".  The pension problem was made by the legislators using the money for the employees owed employer pension payments for pork barrel projects which resulted in "campaign donations" that lined their pockets.  Now, it is the employees fault according to them.  The current, and retired employees had their money stolen; and now are facing the cuts.  There is no guarantee that this year's employer pension payment will be made to the employees pension systems either.  They can "promise", and have it in the State of Illinois Constitution; but they can change things as they please to benefit themselves.  Unless you are really desperate for a temporary job until you can find another; do not go to work for the State of Illinois.  "Theft is theft no matter how you justify it."

cogitoergosum wrote on May 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

A friend of mine, responding to the account of this story elsewhere, posted the following gem. Do you suppose he will answer?

Since it was the Legislature who fail to fund the pension system through its own redirection of those funds for other purposes over the years, and since you are now proposing that you pass the cost for these actions back to local governments, schools, and citizens to pay over again because you and your ilk misspent the money the first time (and BOTH parties have been guity of this, so let's just stuff that sock puppet full of what it should be stuffed full of right now), I just have one question for you:

Does that make the Legislature (and you) un-American?

bluegrass wrote on May 30, 2012 at 9:05 am

You were doing great until you got to  "BOTH parties" and "sock puppets." 

I've heard it said that the greatest trick the devil pulled is convincing the world he doesn't exist.  And so it is in your writing and logic.  You start off great, writing the absolute truth of the matter, which is that the legislature has failed to properly fund the pension system.  And even with the knowledge in your mind, that Mike Madigan has had complete control over state government and the democrats for 38 of the past 40 years, you cannot bring yourself to place the blame on the devil himself.  I don't know if you're a democrat or not, but I know that many dem's have a really hard time believing in the devil, because they keep electing him over and over and over again.  And they keep spending part of their hard earned money in union dues to keep electing him over and over and over again.  And they keep electing local democrats that do his bidding in Springfield, over and over and over again.  Now I'm not saying that Mike Madigan is the actual Devil, I'm saying he has done a wonderful job convincing others that he doesn't exist.  Blame gets deflected to "politicians" and "both parties" and "judges salaries" and "the rich" and "people making $150,000," instead of the person and party in charge of the state checkbook for 38 of the past 40 years. 

That quote by Mike Madigan, lecturing us for passing the buck when he is the one who has done it for the last 38 years, is all anyone needs to know about him.  Even as you stand face to face with Mike Madigan and his comments and actions in this article, you still cannot fully commit to believing. 

This guy gets it....


cogitoergosum wrote on June 08, 2012 at 8:06 am

Bluegrass - I AM a Democrat, and I'm not afraid to name the devil. But it's too convenient to put that label on Mike Madigan alone, as loathsome as I find his practices to be. I would argue that the real "devil" is a political system that judges the effectiveness of a legislator by how much pork they can deliver to their area. By all accounts, Madigan is extraordinarily effective at delivering in this way. That is what has built up his power base over the years - he delivers the money - in the form of campaign contributions, pork projects for legislators districts, etc. - to the folks that support him.

And let's face it. If Candidate A can show that they have brought jobs and money into their district, they are likely going to keep getting elected over candidate B who can't show that or who isn't networked in to "bring home the bacon". This is how we a big factor in how a lot of people - Democrats AND Republicans - decide whether their legislators should be re-elected. That system doesn't reward fiscal responsibility and doing the right thing for the majority of the people. It rewards loyalty to the people who can "get things done" for their districts.

Democracy as a system of government is the greatest in the world, with all its shortcomings. But until we can find legislators that have the will to stop this madness - and until we as citizens can re-orient our idea of what a responsible, succesful legislator really is, we are condemned to continue dealing with the fallout from the seedier side of that system. Finding scapegoats - whether individual politicians, political parties, or organizations - is a copout. Just labeling one man - or one party - as "the Devil" is a pretty convenient way to avoid fixing what's REALLY wrong.

With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, "The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves"

JRR wrote on May 29, 2012 at 6:05 pm

It's nice to see the News-Gazette website finally covering this story after it's been top news in just about every other online newspaper in the state for a matter of weeks.

aantulov wrote on May 29, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I hope these legislators know where Mr. Zimmerman is hiding, they made need to join him.  Making people homeless paying for insurance or denying them healthcare has driven many to think the unthinkable. I would't sit too close to these guys.

This is theft. The cuts should be by attrition and from the top.  Why is anyone in an adminstrative position managing money making $150,000 or more in a pension system at all, unless clearly they don't know how to manage money.

If the News-Gazette wants to sell papers, they will make these legislators as famous as this "Kony" guy, if I see these bums and their financial status on the front page for a week they might see subscription soar.