Retirees shouldn’t be asked to bear full burden of pension problems – Chicago Sun-Times

1 Oct

As the Illinois Legislature prepares for veto session, it’s important to review how unions have sought to stabilize the state’s retirement systems. Recall that Illinois public employees earn modest pensions — averaging $32,000 annually. Nearly 80 percent of individuals in state-funded retirement systems are not eligible for Social Security. Their pensions are often their primary sources of retirement income. Pensions represent employees’ life savings, which they’ve contributed toward from every paycheck.

For decades, politicians didn’t pay the state’s fair share and instead shorted and skipped pension payments, yet some politicians expect public employees and retirees to bear the sole burden of shoring up the pension systems.

Details leaking out of the conference committee indicate that their draft plan is essentially the same as the unfair, unconstitutional bill — Senate Bill 1 — repeatedly and strongly voted down. At the center is a cost-of-living adjustment that fails to keep pace with the inflation rate, which means every year, senior citizens’ pensions will lose value and erode.

Through difficult negotiations, the We Are One Illinois union coalition acted to preserve pensions and developed a fair, constitutional pension funding solution with Illinois Senate President John Cullerton. The result, Senate Bill 2404, is a true compromise with widespread support, passing with a bipartisan supermajority in the Senate.

The SB 2404 plan produces substantial savings. Including health care savings, it will reduce the state’s retirement liabilities by an estimated $32 billion immediately and $134 billion over 30 years. The bill also safeguards against politicians diverting future pension payments by codifying an ironclad funding guarantee.

If the Legislature wants additional fiscal relief, it should look to close corporate tax loopholes before making deeper pension cuts that will devastate seniors. Teachers, first responders, caregivers and others have dedicated their lives to the public good and do not deserve to be left out in the cold.

The House and the governor should take steps to enact the SB 2404 plan, unchanged, this fall.

Michael T. Carrigan, president, Illinois AFL-CIO, on behalf of theWe Are One Illinois union coalition

via Retirees shouldn’t be asked to bear full burden of pension problems – Chicago Sun-Times.


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