Being Clear on Pensions

A recent article in the News Gazette discusses the State Legislature’s failed attempts to pass any pension reform bill, describing the failure as one rooted in conventional political differences.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, wants to shift those pension costs from the state to schools and colleges. Republicans and some Democrats objected fiercely, saying it would force schools to raise property taxes.

…Cross went forward with a plan that leaves out the pension shift but would make schools responsible for any retirement costs stemming from generous, late-career raises to employees.

But Madigan later made it clear he opposed the measure. He says it leaves the state stuck with pension costs it didn’t create and makes Chicago schools pay an expense other schools avoid.

What this narrative leaves out is the struggle being waged by workers and unions to retain a livable future for themselves and their families. The CFA’s own Susan Davis remedies this omission with her comments on the News Gazette’s website, reproduced below.

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Lets’ be clear — the only reason these disastrous cuts to the benefits of present and future state retirees did not pass is the pushback by an organized coalition of unions.

The pension costs are not sinking the Illinois budget — skyrocketing health care costs, giveaways to corporations (like the giveaways to gambling interests described by Prof. John Kindt in his News-Gazette Op-Ed on Sunday, May 27, 2012) and a regressive flat tax have cripple the Illinois economy. It’s not been able to weather the recession due to these huge drains. And then there’s the legislature borrowing from the pension fund for 30 years…

U of I President Easter supported the attacks on the benefits of UI employees, including professors. He did not say “No! you can’t do this to the University of Illinois.” As he has said, he was there, being consulted on the legislation and giving input, at every stage. Faculty see Easter as a decent person and a nice guy , so they need to ask him: why did you take this position? Other university presidents did not.

The only reason U of I retirees are not anguishing today over a choice between a liveable pension and any health care benefit at all is that the teachers unions and other Illinois unions organized massive resistance. The unions were representing tens of thousands of ordinary, tax-paying people. Thank you, IFT and IEA, SEIU, AFSCME and all.

Susan G. Davis, Professor