Op Ed by Cinda Klickna, IEA President

23 Aug

Springfield, Il – It was in Illinois’ best interests that no significant
action was taken on pensions during the August 17th special session.

That’s because Gov. Pat Quinn and other policymakers have been ignoring the
values and priorities of working families and backing the pension-cutting
schemes of millionaires who only want to protect their tax breaks.

So, instead of signing off on unfair and illegal proposals, taking no action
on pensions was the best option for the session. However, Illinois still has
an $83 billion pension deficit that needs to be addressed fairly and in a
way that upholds the state Constitution.

It’s time for the policymakers to listen to the voters.

A new scientific statewide poll shows that, despite years of hostile
editorials, a well-funded public relations campaign and the non-stop efforts
of anti-union “think tanks” to turn the public against education employees,
more than two-thirds of Illinois voters (68%) believe that teachers should
receive their pensions as they were promised, even when pressed about the
state’s budget problems.

The percentage siding with teachers receiving their full pensions increases
(71%) when voters learn that teachers are ineligible for Social Security and
rises higher still (75%) when they hear that Springfield politicians failed
to put money into the pension systems and spent it on their own priorities
instead.

These data show the public understands that education employees are being
reasonable when they argue that public employees should not be made to bear
sole responsibility for fixing the pension mess.

A majority (58%) of voters believe the legislature is most to blame for the
current pension deficit with only 5% laying blame at the feet of teachers.

When it comes to solutions, a majority (58%) considers cutting benefits to
current retirees a very bad idea. Most think closing tax loopholes for
corporations (54%) is a better solution.

The public employee unions have developed a fair and constitutional
framework for dealing with the pension crisis. It states that the following
must be part of any pension legislation:

. A guarantee that the state will pay its portion as required.

. The state needs to take a true look at revenue by closing loopholes
for big corporations that hurt taxpayers of Illinois by denying the state
the revenue needed to provide a quality education to every student in
Illinois.

. No pension cuts for current retirees. Teachers don’t get social
security. Cutting people on a fixed income is wrong and unconstitutional.

If the state agrees to these common sense ideas, unions representing current
contributors to the state’s pension systems would agree to an increase in
individual contributions. A contribution increase would generate billions of
dollars to reduce the pension debt, stabilizing the systems and ensuring
that the reasonable benefits public employees have earned would be paid as
promised,

Those who would balance the budget on the backs of hard working teachers and
ESPs don’t represent the values of Illinois’ working families.

It’s time for Governor Quinn, Speaker Madigan, Senate President Cullerton,
Republican leaders Cross and Radogno to work with the unions for a fair and
constitutional solution.

It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s what the voters want.

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