Your Legislators’ Responses to the Pension Bomb

21 Dec

I emailed every state senator and representative prior to the pension bomb explosion to tell them I expected them to uphold their oath of office and follow the state constitution when voting. I’ve received responses from several over the past few weeks since the vote:

Senator Napoleon Harris

Greetings,

Recently, the General Assembly passed pension reform legislation that strips retirement benefits from thousands of retired and current state workers. State Senator Napoleon Harris issued the following statement explaining why he could not support the measure;

“I was sent to Springfield to represent and lead my constituents. I swore to protect and uphold the state’s Constitution for the betterment of the people. I listened to my constituents’ concerns. Their concerns were related to broken promises, and their ability to live their lives with dignity and respect. They were promised a pension in exchange for setting aside a specific amount of their income each pay period. They kept their side of the promise by depositing their hard-earned income into the pension system, and they expected the state to keep its side of the promise. They expressed their concern to me regarding how hard it would be to live their lives with dignity and respect if they were denied the pension they had expected to receive in their retirement.

As a result of listening to their concerns, I could not bring myself to stand against the promise that was made to them by the state by voting for this legislation. This proposed version of pension reform does not keep the promise that was made to the retirees who put their faith in the state to keep its promise to them that they would be able to live their lives with dignity and respect.

I realize that changes have to be made in order to maintain or increase the social services that the state provides to its citizens. Something needed to be done to prevent $2.8 billion in budget cuts to education and social and human services; reductions that will greatly affect all of the citizens of Illinois. I applaud the bipartisan efforts of the committee dedicated to finding a solution to our pension problem. I do understand the need for immediate reform. As legislators, we must continue to work to manage our debt, while at the same time determine the best way to meet the needs of all our constituents. I await final word from the Illinois Supreme Court on this plan’s constitutionality.”

Senator Napoleon Harris, III
15th District – Illinois

Senator Dan Kotowski

Thank you for writing to express your concern about my position on SB 1. I appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to reach out to me.

Let me start by saying this: you were made a promise and that promise was broken. I wish I could go back in time and erase the decades of waste, mismanagement and corruption in our state. I wish I could have been there to stop the underfunding of your pension. I wish I could have been there to stop the people you trusted from supporting a “pension holiday”.

But I can’t.

I can, however, say that I am sorry. I am sorry that this happened to you, that your trust was violated, and that the people elected to represent you failed to do so. As a person charged with fixing what is broken in our state, I accept responsibility for the challenges before us. All I can do is take action and do my best to serve you and the interests of our community.

Since starting my service as a senator in 2007, we have not missed a pension payment. In fact, I passed a law that explicitly states that when determining how much money the state has available to spend each year, we first have to deduct the fixed costs of pensions. That means before doing anything in each budget year, we now pay the pension bill first. I also cast a very difficult vote to secure billions in revenue to pay yearly pension costs and other outstanding financial obligations. That action asked every taxpayer in Illinois, both individuals and businesses, to step up, help out and sacrifice, all in the name of stabilizing our state and making sure your retirement would not be jeopardized.

But that action was not enough to solve the problem.

I wish there were another way. Either we took the necessary step to reform pension funding or we would have continued to exact devastating, crippling cuts on education, healthcare and human services (over $2 billion in cuts for the next budget year). And by not moving forward, we would have risked your losing everything, not just yearly, compounded benefit increases, but everything.  I was not willing to take that risk.

My job as a public servant is to do what is right and necessary, but not necessarily what is popular. I know that you are frustrated and upset and you have every right to be. As a representative of all the people in our district, it is my responsibility, however, to balance your interests with the challenges of everyone else.

The fact is that we are all in this together. That is why I personally led the effort to cut lawmakers’ pay by $3,100 each year for the past five years and eliminate the free healthcare for life benefit for elected officials. I also pushed for benefit cuts for legislators in the recently passed pension legislation.

We have a moral obligation to look out for everyone, especially those who are least able to take care of themselves. While not perfect, the bill I voted for protected your retirement and guaranteed you a modest cost of living adjustment while keeping a covenant with everyone else that so desperately needs legal, social and economic justice in our state.

Thanks again for writing and all your contributions to our community. Feel free to contact to me at kotowski28@senatedem.illinois.gov if you have additional concerns.

Sincerely,

Senator Dan Kotowski
28th District – Illinois

Senator Christine Radogno

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the recent pension law changes approved by the General Assembly.   Please know that this was one of the most difficult votes I have ever taken. My overriding concern was to ensure the pensions remain financially sound and will exist when it comes time for teachers and other public employees to access the benefits they have earned.

I understand that public employees kept their end of the bargain and are now being asked to sacrifice because the state did not keep up its end. I voted against some of the most egregious decisions – such as the 2003 pension bonding scheme and the 2005 pension raids. These were major drivers in turning Illinois serious pension funding issues into a full blown crisis.  It became painfully obvious that unless state government acted to solve the huge underfunded pension debt, the pension systems will be bankrupt perhaps as soon as the next decade.

While it was tempting to sit back and demand that those who created the problem solve it that was neither practical nor responsible. We cannot change history and we must deal with the situation that exists today. The changes made will protect the integrity of the pension systems well into the future.

Unfortunately, in order to solve this problem, all retirees and active employees – including the General Assembly — would have to sacrifice.   Please know that the reforms in SB1 apply to  four state retirement systems, including the legislators’, General Assembly Retirement System (GARS), State Employees Retirement System (SERS) and the State university Retirement Systems (SURS) in addition to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS). I am pleased that the final product does not cut base benefits to any employee. Although more slowly, benefit payments will even continue to grow for all participants. The changes were structured to provide offers the most protection to those who have worked the longest and receive the most modest pensions.

Again, I appreciate hearing from you on this very difficult issue.  I respect your viewpoint and I will continue to listen to ideas about how we can make the public pension system financially sound, protect retiree benefits and be accountable and responsible to taxpayers.

Sincerely,

Christine Radogno
State Senator, 41st District

Rep. Marty Moylan

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about Illinois’ pension system. I understand how important this issue is to you, and I do not take this matter lightly. As a former electrician and husband and father, this issue has affected my family too.  

The state of the state’s pension systems did not occur overnight. The crisis the systems face—and thereby the crisis that workers and retirees themselves face in losing their pensions if the issue is not addressed—is decades in the making.

 A number of factors over many years—including economic recessions, downturns in the financial markets, and many years of irresponsible spending decisions made by lawmakers and governors before I took office—including failing to fully fund the state’s obligations to its pension systems and repeatedly offering new benefits without a means to pay for them—caused the state to incur billions of dollars in pension debt.  For decades, lawmakers have been required to devote a larger share of the budget each year to the state’s pension funds, leaving much less for other critical services and priorities. This fiscal year alone, the state will allocate more than 20 percent of its expected revenue to the state pension funds, and without reforms, that percentage will grow in the future, putting critical state services in jeopardy. By contrast, 20 years ago the pension payment represented less than 3 percent of the state’s general revenue funds.

The pension reforms passed by the General Assembly under Conference Committee Report 1 to Senate Bill 1 ensure each current and future retiree will have a pension, while putting Illinois on a path to fully fund the state pension systems by 2044. The reforms also reduce employee contributions by 1 percent. Importantly, the reforms do not eliminate the annual annuity adjustments that retirees have previously received and no annuitant will receive less money than he or she is receiving today.

 While the bill will impact a number of retirees and current employees, the General Assembly went to great lengths to minimize the impact on retirees. As a result of these reforms, a number of retirees and employees will see little to no changes to their benefits.  Given that, I believe these reforms provide a fair solution for retirees, employees, businesses, and taxpayers that is consistent with the state Constitution.

 These reforms are important to preserving the pension systems for those who have diligently paid into them.Without a realistic plan to reform and fund the systems, the retirement of every teacher and state employee is at risk. The reforms under Conference Committee Report 1 to Senate Bill 1 give employees and retirees a guarantee that the state will fully—and finally—fund the pension systems so they have a retirement.

 These reforms are not a perfect solution. However, they are a necessary solution if the systems are to be preserved, if the retirements of workers and retirees are to be saved, and if critical state services like public safety, education, health care, and care for seniors and veterans are to be spared devastating cuts even greater than they have already experienced. The General Assembly has spent years examining this issue and options to address this crisis. Ultimately, this was the only feasible, reasonable option.

 We are forced to take up these reforms not only because we must save the pension systems from financial collapse, but also because Illinois is facing a fiscal crisis that the state has not sufficiently been able to address, despite cutting state spending by more than $3 billion over the last three years, passing reforms to cut Medicaid costs, and having the lowest state employee headcount in a generation. Even with these efforts, the state still has about $7.5 billion in unpaid bills to providers of services to seniors, veterans and the developmentally disabled, and the growing payments to the pension systems mean that every year, scarce funding for critical state services that local families rely on must be reduced. The General Assembly had to act now to avoid further harm to the state’s fiscal condition, particularly its credit rating.

 Without realistic pension reforms, the state’s economy cannot move forward. The pension crisis is negatively affecting our economy by harming the state’s credit rating, creating instability in the state budget and fostering an unstable economic environment, making it more difficult to improve the state’s employment rate. These reforms will help improve Illinois’ fiscal stability and give job-creating businesses more certainty about the state’s economic situation, which will allow them to create and retain needed jobs in Illinois and, in turn, improve the overall economy of the state and the very health of the state’s pension funds.

 It is also important to note that state lawmakers are not immune from these reforms. Though I have personally rejected a legislative pension, the provisions in these reforms will apply to lawmakers the same as they impact all other employees. Legislators with fewer benefits will face even greater cuts.

 Thank you for taking the time to contact me and express your concerns about this very important issue. Though we may not agree on this matter, I will always work hard to represent you and all local residents and fight for the best interests of our state and communities. 

 Sincerely,

Marty Moylan
State Representative
55th District

Senator Emil Jones

On Tuesday, December 3, 2013, I faced the most difficult vote that I have come across during my tenure as a legislator.  SB 1 is not the perfect solution, but the only solution given besides pure inaction.   And so, although it was extremely hard for me to do so, I voted in favor of the measure.

Although this legislation attempts to relieve the state’s financial difficulties while at the same time keeping the pension funds solvent, my affirmative vote was reluctant.   My issue lies with the fact that it is not an agreement that has been negotiated with employee unions, so in all likelihood, the issue will end up in court and a judge will decide if the changes to the pension systems are constitutional.

As you may already know, earlier this year I supported SB 2404, a reform plan that had been negotiated with the We Are One Labor Coalition and that would have provided an estimated $60 billion in savings.  Unfortunately, that measure failed to gain enough political support to be called for a vote in the Illinois House, despite being passed by the Senate.  If the courts rule against SB 1, this could provide the necessary momentum to find a solution that has union approval.

I understand the frustration of state employees and retirees who made choices based on certain expectations and now find the game is being changed.  At the same time, I don’t believe we can or should attempt to tax our way out of the problem.  Nor is continued inaction an acceptable option because the path we are on is unsustainable, this being the unfortunate reality.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Senator Emil Jones, III

Senator William Delgado

This week, the General Assembly passed an unconstitutional pension reform proposal that I did not support.

We cannot take away from the people who we have made promises to with a bill we know is not constitutional. The trust between neighbors, employer and worker was betrayed. Retired teachers, janitors and the women who serve lunch to our children faithfully paid into a system and now those promises were broken.

There is no perfect solution to Illinois’ pension crisis. The Senate passed Senate Bill 2404, and I continue to urge the House to take this measure up. Employees and retirees offered concessions. It contains difficult sacrifices, but our public employee unions understand this state’s dire financial conditions. They were willing to be part of a solution even after the state failed to keep its promises.

On the floor, I made comments explaining my position on SB1 and urged my colleagues to vote no. To listen to my comments, please click here.

I will keep you updated on further developments. As always, do not hesitate to contact my office or send me an email with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Senator William Delgado
2nd District – Illinois

Senator Don Harmon

Thank you for your message regarding pension reform. I’m acutely aware of how directly this matter affects you, and I don’t take that lightly.

The vote I cast on December 3 was the most significant vote of my career. There’s no question it was also the most difficult.

But as difficult as it was for me personally, and as painful as it feels to you, approval of this compromise legislation was necessary for us to govern, to move forward and address many other critical issues facing Illinois.

It also was necessary to ensure that the pension you are counting on will be there for you in retirement. While that may strike you as cold comfort at the moment, ensuring the viability of our pension systems has been uppermost in my mind throughout these many months of debate.

As I said in a commentary piece I wrote for Wednesday Journal of Oak Park, I’ve been assuring friends, neighbors and constituents for many months now that the General Assembly would soon tackle pension reform in a meaningful way. Finally, we’ve done it. I’ve also warned all who would listen that whatever pension reform bill we passed would not totally satisfy anyone, and that it would anger stakeholders on both sides. On that point I’m certain we have not disappointed.

But the fact is that reform now is critical to stabilizing our state’s fiscal condition and freeing up resources for core functions such as education, human services and public safety. Reform also will fulfill our promise to public workers that pensions will be there for them in retirement.

As you may know, I originally supported a different approach to solving the pensions crisis – an approach supported by many of you most directly affected. While I preferred the original Senate model, the new compromise bill is clearly superior to our Senate proposal in one key measure. It is valued at about $160 billion-more than twice the value of the Senate proposal.

Moreover, the new proposal has elements of fairness I admire.

First, we listened to retirees and teachers who implored us to contribute more state dollars to the pension systems instead of just cutting benefits. Unlike the severe House model, the new proposal achieves almost half of the $160 billion through additional state contributions.

Second, we recognize that those already retired or preparing to retire soon have less flexibility to adapt to changing rules, and so more falls on younger workers who have time to plan.  No employees over 45 will see changes in retirement ages. No current retirees will see a suspension in their cost of living adjustment (COLA).

Most of the savings on the benefit side come from a fundamental change in the COLA calculation. Today, employees receive an automatic compounded 3 percent increase in their pensions each year, regardless of inflation.  Those retired for the last decade have done well, with COLAs far outpacing inflation. That’s just not a sustainable system.

The new COLA calculation attempts to be fair to public workers.  It acknowledges that teachers and most public employees are not entitled to Social Security, and gives more to those who must live on their pension alone.

The new COLA is tied to inflation, salary and length of service. In that way, it rewards those who have worked a full career for a modest salary over the political insiders who work a brief time at a high salary.  Both may have a $35,000 pension, but the career teacher will enjoy a far more generous COLA.

We’ve also ended several lingering abuses.  We are capping the salary used to calculate pensions to discourage “salary spiking” at career end.  We’ve ended the practice of using vacation and sick time to calculate pensions.

The legislation is fairer and more constitutionally sound than the House plan rejected in the Senate last spring. While I have lingering doubts about its constitutionality, I am convinced that whatever we do as legislators, the only path to lasting pension reform runs through the Illinois Supreme Court.

This is not the plan I would have advanced were it up to me alone. Whatever our individual misgivings on either side of the issue, however, we must move forward with genuine pension reform. That’s why I supported the compromise measure approved this week.

It has been described as unfair by many and deemed inadequate by others. But it will get Illinois back on firmer financial footing while making room for other critical funding priorities and future initiatives.

Of equal importance, and of particular importance to me, it ensures that public workers counting on pensions will be paid one for as long as they live.

I know that this ordeal has been very painful for you as you wrestle with what this means to your retirement security. I will stay in touch by email, but I’m also happy to try to chat in person or by phone if that would be helpful.

You may contact me at dharmon@senatedem.ilga.gov or by calling (708) 848-2002.

In the meantime, I’ve attached a document explaining the provisions of the legislation.

Sincerely,

Senator Don Harmon
39th District – Illinois

Rep. Ed Sullivan

Thank you for your feedback on the latest pension reform proposal to come before the Illinois House (Conference Committee Report #1 to SB 1). This week I voted in support of the plan as the best solution available to restore state pension systems to firm financial ground for the future and to preserve a secure retirement for our teachers and public employees.

Change is never easy, but these reforms will stabilize our pension systems and save the State $160 billion to fund other vital programs and help guard against future tax increases. I believe Conference Committee Report 1 is both a fair and sustainable compromise that will address the concerns of state workers and taxpayers alike.

Teachers and public employees have worked hard and faithfully; and deserve a retirement plan that is dependable yet affordable for taxpayers. Due to the severity of our state’s pension crisis, I made the difficult decision to support legislation that will help keep our pension systems solvent.

While this bill is not perfect, it is a very good compromise. It provides much-needed certainty for our budget, for local schools and universities; and most importantly, for retirees.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns. Please know I deeply respect the hard work and dedication of our teachers and public employees and appreciate having your input during this difficult process.

Best Regards,

Ed Sullivan
State Representative
51st Legislative District

Rep. Darlene Senger

Thank you for your feedback on the latest pension reform proposal to come before the Illinois House (Conference Committee Report #1 to SB 1). This week I voted in support of the plan as the best solution available to restore state pension systems to firm financial ground for the future and to preserve a secure retirement for our teachers and public employees.

Change is never easy, but these reforms will stabilize our pension systems and save the State $160 billion to fund other vital programs and help guard against future tax increases. I believe Conference Committee Report 1 is both a fair and sustainable compromise that will address the concerns of state workers and taxpayers alike.

State employees have worked hard and faithfully; and deserve a retirement plan that is dependable yet affordable for taxpayers. Due to the severity of our state’s pension crisis, I made the difficult decision to support legislation that will help keep our pension systems solvent.

While this bill is not perfect, it is a very good compromise. It provides much-needed certainty for our budget, for local schools and universities; and most importantly, for retirees.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns. Please know I deeply respect the hard work and dedication of our teachers and public employees and appreciate having your input during this difficult process.

Sincerely,

Darlene Senger
State Representative – District 41

Senator Michael Noland

Yesterday, a majority of state senators and representatives voted to reduce the pension benefits of retirees and current state employees. I voted no. Let me take a moment to tell you why.

The bill that passed yesterday was unconstitutional, unfair to state employees, and nontransparent. It also carries our state farther down a path of ill-considered spending cuts without fixing the state’s underlying budgetary problems and unfair tax structure.

The 1970 Illinois Constitution protects pension benefits, stating that pensions may not be “diminished or impaired.” The plan passed yesterday does just that. It reduces the annual increases in pension benefits that allow retirees to keep up with the rising cost of living. As a result, retirees will see their ability to pay for basic needs like food and health care diminished. I could not in good faith vote for a plan that will almost certainly be struck down by the Supreme Court.

Moreover, the legislation that passed yesterday was not given time for public scrutiny. Such a monumental change to our state’s contracts with its teachers and other workers should be a much more public undertaking. Lacking a more public process, I felt the plan that passed yesterday did not reflect the will of the people.

Finally, addressing pension debt by punishing teachers and other public servants misses the heart of the problem. Pension reform should be part of a comprehensive plan to address the state’s long-term fiscal problems. Part of that solution must be fixing Illinois’ unjust tax structure. The lowest income earners in our state pay a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes than the highest earners. Tackling the structural inequities in our tax code will help us solve our state’s fiscal problems without stealing the life savings of teachers, police, and state workers who have dedicated their lives to public service.

Meaningful pension reform is needed. But destroying the retirement security of our state workers – including many who don’t qualify for Social Security – is a poor way to express the state’s gratitude for their dedicated service.

Please do not hesitate to contact me through my website or my district office at (847) 214-8864 with any questions and comments you may have.

Sincerely,

Senator Michael Noland
22nd District – Illinois

Rep. Laura Fine

As you may be aware, the conference committee’s pension proposal passed out of both the House and the Senate yesterday, and the bill will be sent to the governor and signed into law.  Lawsuits will inevitably be filed to challenge the constitutionality of the Revised SB1 Bill, and the courts will have the final say on the issue.

As an instructor at Northeastern Illinois University for more than 14 years and longstanding member of University Professionals of Illinois, this was the most difficult vote in my short tenure in the House as it directly impacts the lives of so many of my constituents.  I weighed and balanced my concerns for the retirees and current employees against the most dire fiscal condition and outlook in Illinois history.  Our current pension system is unsustainable and is draining the funding from other essential state programs.  The simple fact is that the state cannot afford the promises it made.

We are in crisis mode in Illinois!  This was a crisis decades in the making. The end result of further inaction would not only lead to the ultimate end to any future pension benefits, but an eventual bankrupt system that will be unable to care for the most basic needs of its citizenry.

As you may know, during the Spring legislative session I voted against the original SB1 as I believed the bill to be overly punitive to current retirees, especially those at the lower tier of the benefit spectrum.  There are those of you who think the Revised SB1 goes too far and those who think it doesn’t go far enough.  This bill is the result of months of negotiations between the bipartisan Conference Committee appointed by leadership of both chambers of the General Assembly.  In comparison to the original SB1, the new bill offers enhanced protections for retirees and current employees while reducing the unfunded pension liability by an estimated $21.4 billion immediately.

Based on the foregoing analysis, the considerable input from my constituents on both sides of this controversial issue, the additional protections contained in the Revised SB1 for those most vulnerable, and the projected $160 billion in savings over the next 30 years, I voted in favor of the new bill.

This bill includes significant reforms to the pension systems. It ensures that the base pensions earned by pensioners will NOT be diminished. The changes will be made in the annual cost of living adjustments.  The formula for the annual raise will be based on up to the first $30,000 of a pension, years of service and the Consumer Price Index.  The base will be compounded.  An important part of this equation is lower income earners will be protected with a larger COLA.

The retirement age will be increased on a graduated scale, employees will contribute 1% less of their salary toward their pension and new hires will not be able to use sick or vacation time towards pensionable salary or years of service.  In addition, beginning July 1, 2015, up to 5% of Tier 1 active members can join a defined contribution plan.

This new plan establishes an actuarially sound funding schedule.  This will enable the state to achieve 100% funding of the system no later than FY 2044.

Please see below for a more detailed description of what is contained in this bill.

Again, I appreciate all of the input that I received from my constituents and I truly believe this is a painful but absolutely necessary step to a meaningful recovery to place our state on sound fiscal ground for brighter future for all Illinoisans.

I encourage you to contact my office in Glenview or Springfield, or to email me at repfine@gmail.com if you have any questions about this bill or would like to discuss it further.

Kindly,

Laura Fine
Rep. Josh Harms

Thank you for contacting our office regarding pension reform.  I have always said that I would not vote for any legislation that unfairly places the pension debt burden on the backs of our hard working state employees, and that is why I voted NO on SB1 both yesterday and earlier this year.  Unfortunately, the bill narrowly passed through both the House, 62-53, and the Senate, 30-24, and the Governor has stated his intention to sign the bill.

This legislation takes money away from people who work very hard for their paycheck and their retirement and places that money in government hands to be spent elsewhere.  If this money were to be used wisely paying down our old bills and fully funding our schools, maybe we could look at this in a different light.  However, I do not believe that these “savings” will be used responsibly.  In fact, $1.5 billion will be given to the appropriations chairman who tends to send most money towards Chicago.

Furthermore, I find the funding guarantee in this legislation to be insufficient.  It fails to protect the pension systems from being shorted by the General Assembly in the future.  At any time, legislators can simply vote to not fund the pensions and do away with the so-called “guarantee.”

Again, for the reasons listed above, and because I believe that a promise made should be a promise kept, I voted no on SB1.  After the Governor signs the bill it will go into effect in June of 2014, however I fully expect there to be legal challenges to this law as soon as it is signed.  I will keep you updated as new information becomes available.

Yours in Service,

Josh Harms

State Representative – District 106

Rep. Adam Brown

Yesterday, the General Assembly passed a pension reform bill that will not only affect your future, but many public servants in years to come. The Conference Committee report (SB1) passed the House with a vote of 62-53-01 and the Senate by a roll call of 30-24-03.  I voted to keep the benefits constitutionally promised to you.  I appreciate all the work you have done for our community, and will continue to fight for the benefits you worked so diligently to earn.

I am attaching the analysis of the bill for you to review before the June 1st effective date.  I am willing to answer any questions you may have, so please do not hesitate to call my office.

Again, I thank you for your service to our state and look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Sincerely,

Adam Brown
State Representative, 102nd District

Senator Linda Holmes

Today, the General Assembly passed a pension reform proposal that I did not support.

Like supporters of Senate Bill 1, I’m concerned about our state’s fiscal situation. But the state’s budget should not be balanced on the back of our state retirees. We made a promise and, based on those promises, retirees made plans for their future.

The state signed an agreement with state retirees but as seen today, the General Assembly broke their promises.

In 2010, the General Assembly reformed pensions and created a two-tier pension system for new state employees. Many of my colleagues and I thought the changes were drastic but we were told new state employees have a chance to change their plans for retirement and make adjustments for their future. Now, since that was not enough, decisions were made to go after existing retirees and those close to retirement. This is inherently wrong and I believe we are taking away people’s futures.

On the floor, I made comments explaining my position on SB1 and urged my colleagues to vote no. To listen to my comments, please click here.

There is no perfect solution to Illinois’ pension crisis. I negotiated Senate Bill 2404 and continue to urge Speaker Madigan to call it for a vote in the House. Employees and retirees offered concessions. It contains difficult sacrifices, but our public employee unions understand this state’s dire financial conditions. They were willing to be part of a solution even after the state failed to keep its promises.

My office has received thousands of emails, letters and phone calls asking me to vote against pension reform and to fight for the rights of retirees. I have every intention of continuing to push for a fair and more equitable solution.

As more information becomes available, I will keep you updated. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office or send me an email with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Senator Linda Holmes
42nd District – Illinois

Senator Tom Cullerton

Today, the General Assembly passed an unconstitutional pension reform proposal that I did not support.

Like the supporters of Senate Bill 1, I’m concerned about our state’s fiscal situation and inability to pay its bills on time. But I understand a law that’s declared unconstitutional doesn’t save the state money.

Our state’s pension crisis was not created overnight and shouldn’t be resolved by a proposal that does not pass several critical tests in solving the state’s pension crisis. Today’s proposal didn’t involve stakeholders directly impacted by these changes in negotiations and the constitutionality of this proposal is uncertain.

I agree the state needs to control its spending, including its pension spending. But this is a massive overreach that’s unfair to working men and women and retirees.

To hear my comments on the changes made to our state’s pension systems, click here.

I appreciate all of the emails, phone calls and letters I have received from constituents across the district asking me to vote against pension reform and to fight for the rights of retirees. I have every intention of continuing to push for a more fair and equitable solution.

I will continue to keep you updated on further developments. As always, do not hesitate to contact my office or send me an email with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
Senator Tom Cullerton
23rd District – Illinois

Senator William Haine

Thank you for contacting me about the proposed cuts to state retirement systems.

Today I voted to protect your benefits by opposing the plan that unfortunately passed the Senate and the House.

These cuts to your retirement benefits, Senate Bill 1, now move to the governor to sign into law, but I am confident this unfair and unconstitutional proposal will be overturned by our court system.

The state made you a promise when you began your career as a public servant. You and your family have planned and saved based on that promise. I plan on fighting to keep that promise.

Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.

Sincerely,

Senator Bill Haine
56th District – Illinois

Rep. Barbara Wheeler

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding this very important issue.  I am writing to let you know that I have just arrived to Springfield and I was literally just handed the bill.  I plan to sit down, read the bill cover to cover, attend the pension reform hearing at 8:30 am tomorrow morning and weigh every option that needs to be weighed.  At stake here is the financial constraints of the state versus the benefits our retirees have earned.  I hope to get back to you with a more informed decision once I have fully reviewed the bill.

Sincerely,

Barbara Wheeler
State Representative – District 64

Rep. John Cabello

The General Assembly has been debating pension reform proposals for more than a year now. Several different proposals have been put forward, none of which seem likely to pass constitutional muster.

The state’s pension systems are not in trouble because of any action by our state employees or teachers. They paid their required pension contributions into the system and deserve their pensions.

We face over $100 billion in unfunded pension liability because past governors and General Assemblies repeatedly stole from the pension systems to pay for their overspending.

In 2005, Governor Blagojevich and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly raided $3.5 billion in pension funds to hide a structural budget deficit with a pension grab. This deliberate under-funding of our pension systems increased the state’s unfunded pension liability by more than $38 billion.

The Governor and General Assembly have a constitutional responsibility to adequately fund the state’s pension systems and guarantee the pension benefits of current state employees.

Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution states that “membership in any pension or retirement system of the State… shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

There are very few retirees with lavish pensions. Most retired state employees and teachers receive a pension that averages less than $30,000 per year, and teachers do not receive social security.

The We Are One Coalition has already threatened to sue to protect the hard-earned benefits of teachers and state employees.

I cannot in good conscience vote for pension changes that I believe are unconstitutional. This legislation will end up being litigated in the courts, costing the State even more money.

We have an obligation to properly fund our pension systems. It’s time for the State to live up to its responsibilities.

Sincerely,
John Cabello
State Representative – District 68

 

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