Cullerton's pension bill moves to full Senate

Cullerton's pension bill moves to full Senate

SPRINGFIELD -- Legislation endorsed by union leaders that is aimed at cutting into Illinois' massive public pensions debt was approved by a Senate committee on a 10-5 party-line vote Wednesday.

The bill, SB 2404, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, was supported by all 10 Democrats on the executive committee. It was a product of meetings between Cullerton and representatives of the state AFL-CIO, AFSCME and other public employee unions.

Like other pension proposals around the Statehouse this spring, it is aimed at slashing what is estimated to be a longterm $100 billion public pensions debt in Illinois. Cullerton said his legislation would shave between $8.5 billion and $15.7 billion from the longterm debt.

Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, who is not a member of the executive committee, said Wednesday that he would vote for the measure. A Senate floor vote could come as early as Thursday.

"I have told people all along that what I wanted to see was representatives of the public employees to negotiate something that helps solve this problem in a way that shares the pain among all the stakeholders, and not just the employees," he said.

Frerichs said he believes the bill will pass the Senate, but that its future in the House is far less certain.

"I have no idea. I don't make guesses on what the House will do," he said.

Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he didn't know how he would vote.

"I'm going to look at it tonight. I'm studying it," he said.

But some Republicans on the executive committee said the Cullerton bill doesn't go far enough.

"I just don't think this solves the problem or saves enough money," said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine. "I think it invites us to have to be back here far too soon to have to face this gap."

The House already has passed a pension reform bill, pushed by Speaker Michael Madigan, which supporters say would save more money, but opponents say is unconstitutional because it diminishes benefits to state employees and retirees, contrary to the state Constitution.

"The House bill isn't perfect. Nobody is happy about it but the reality is it passed that chamber, it has broad support in our caucus and the governor has said he would sign it," Murphy said.

The constitutionality of Cullerton's SB 2404 was one of the main points of contention during Wednesday's hearing, as representatives of the AFL-CIO, the Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers said they believed it would meet a possible court challenge. 

But a representative of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association disagreed.

"The IRTA believes that this legislation diminishes the state's responsibility to a contract to which we fulfilled our part in its entirety," said Bob Pinkerton, vice president of the 35,000-member group. "The IRTA believes that this diminishment does not come with any choice that is beneficial to its membership."

Cullerton's plan offers approximately 700,000 state employees and retirees, including downstate and suburban teachers, a choice between either giving up or delaying their annual 3 percent cost of living allowances or sacrificing access to what is now a state-subsidized health care program.

Frerichs said he believed the legislation is constitutional.

"As someone who is not a legal scholar, I believe and trust the attorneys who tell me that it would be more constitutional than the other proposals out there," he said.

The president of the IEA, Cinda Klickna, endorsed the proposal.

"We do believe that 2404 is a constitutional bill. It puts more money in our retirement systems and keeps them solvent," she said. "We believe we have crafted a choice framework that is constitutional and would move us ahead and get off the topic of pensions once and for all."

Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said, "I want to be clear. I don't think anyone is jumping for joy that they would see their future pension or life saving diminished or reduced in value."

But, he said, the employees were willing to sacrifice to keep the retirement systems solvent.

"This is coming from teachers, retirees, nurses, no one else," Montgomery said. "I haven't heard the civic commitee (a Chicago group calling for pension cuts), corporations or newspaper editors pledge to give back anything to solve this problem like our public employees have," he said.

 

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Skepticity wrote on May 08, 2013 at 5:05 pm

"We spent the pension fund money on other things so we could make people happy and get re-elected, and now we need to make up for it, because we are running out of money.  Sooooo...  Do you want us to cut off your hand or your foot?  Since we are giving you a choice, it is constitutional..."

When will the thieves be held accountable?  How can they be allowed continue to thrive after years of stealing from state employees' retirement plans to buy votes with pork projects and givaways?  

Does the News-Gazette have the fortitude to publish the name of each lawmaker and governor who voted for and signed off on using the money on other things instead of funding the employees' pension funds? 

 

 

Danno wrote on May 08, 2013 at 6:05 pm

That is, 'Testicular Fortitude?' Won't find it here or, in the Attorney General's Office. Ugh...

airrecon wrote on May 08, 2013 at 8:05 pm

 

With all of the rhetoric that has been and will be generated with regard to

the issue of  the pension crisis in Illinois, there seems to be a gorilla in the room

that has been largely ignored.  He sits quietly, perhaps hoping that if he remains

that way, people will get used to him and allow him to blend in with the décor so

much that ,while still a presence, he can effectively disappear. That gorilla is the

question of just  what happened to the money that was supposed to go to funding the

 pension systems.

          Oh, I know that explanations of “pension holidays” and “pork barrel projects”

have been bandied about both verbally and in print. But where are the explanations

of what those projects were?  Where is the information regarding what benefits were

garnered for whom by those projects? Where is the data on who was responsible

 for guiding those pension funds to their new destinations?

          Public employees appear to have been successfully vilified as the root

cause of all the misery. This vilification at the hands of political maneuvering assisted

by the press, has turned the blowtorch of blame away from the prime mover of

the crisis and redirected it towards a soft target, the public employee, all the while

illuminating the gorilla in the powerful glare of a birthday candle.

          Am I missing something here?  Has there been an expose` on the off-road

paths that the pension funding took after it left the main drag?  Have the names and

faces of the authors of our pension difficulties shown up on the newsstands at

the checkout lanes of my grocery store?  I’ve slept a couple of times during the

course of all this. Did this all come out in the wash as I dreamt of a place where

politicians were honest and the press went about the business of rooting out the

truth? If any of these scenarios are fact…please…point me to where I can find them.

          Is it too hard?  Is the task of determining the course of funding too difficult?

Is the estimated results of the effort to do so deemed to be of little value when

considering readership and airplay? It would seem that there is enough meat on

this bone to provide not only a continental breakfast, but smorgasbord of a series of

 articles and television news spots.  Belly up to the groaning board gang, there’s a lot

 here! Get your plates and let’s have a look at what’s on the menu.

Spoon on a hefty portion of the history that is behind the current crisis. Season

 that with the legality issues that have been run over roughshod. Toss on the spice of

 vagaries in language and ladle on the dark flavored gravy of corruption. Oh, and

don’t pass up on the selection of abuse of power sauces.    

Why has there been no serious investigation into what happened to the money

 that was not paid into the Pension systems?

Which systems were and were not fully funded and how and why?

When did the pension holidays take place?

Who was responsible for making those decisions?

How was the money that was not paid in…spent?

Who benefitted from the projects that were funded with that money?

What was the State’s legal responsibility to the pension systems?

Is there no paper trail?   If there is not, why?  Is fiscal record keeping so inept or,

worse, corrupted, that there is no accounting, both in the financial sense or the

responsibility sense?

Is there not a way to determine what took place here?

 

          To say that there was no abuse of the pension system by certain members

and beneficiaries of that system would be untrue.  To say that there was no waste

within the State pension systems would also be false.  But to lay the blame for the

pension crisis at the feet of the public employees and retirees who worked for the

benefits, paid for the benefits, planned on the benefits promised to them and are

 now being asked to pony up a portion of those benefits because of the

misconduct in the administrators of those benefit systems, is at best a breaking of

the faith and at the worst…criminal.         

          Come on, all you seasoned and budding investigative journalists out there,

grab your notebooks or tablets and shovels and do some real digging!  Put some

faces and names to the generic term of “legistators” who have put this state in the

situation in which it finds itself. Don’t be content to allow lawmakers and politicians,

 past and present  off the hook with an “Oops…our bad….sorry…and by the way….

 you people will have to pay for our goof!”

Aren’t the people responsible for the pension mess culpable to the point

 that they should have to answer for the missteps taken?

  Aren’t the citizens of Illinois entitled to know what happened to the funding

for pensions  and who was responsible for the missteps?       

 Aren’t public employees and retirees who have been painted over with a

broad brush of blamet entitled to a re-examination of the charges against them in the

court of public opinion?

Are there legal recourses that could be taken by affected groups against the

State of Illinois for its mishandling, (and some consider it theft), of the funding that

would have greatly reduced the seriousness of the current crisis if it had been

placed as it should have been?

If this is not a place where investigative journalism should be….then where!!???

You have the tools, the data bases, the resources, the ability and, hopefully, the drive 

to present the facts, and again, hopefully, do it without the spin.

Fedupwithstatereps wrote on May 09, 2013 at 9:05 am

Here, here.  I second that airrecon!!