Gov. Rauner pension proposal: Cut benefits for cops, firefighters, teachers

8 Jul

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced on Wednesday a massive pension overhaul bill that would cut benefits for police officers, firefighters and public teachers while saying it would save Chicago billions of dollars.

Rauner said the more than 500-page pension reform bill includes changes to Chicago’s fire and police pension plans as well as to the Chicago Teachers pension. Rauner said the bill included suggestions from Senate President John Cullerton about cost of living increases as well as suggestions from Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.

“What we tried to do is incorporate the ideas of all the various leaders to create an opportunity for significant cost-savings in the pension systems throughout the state of Illinois,” Rauner said.

Rauner’s new pension bill gives Emanuel much of what he wants, but not all of it

But Rauner’s bill may include some ideas from other leaders, the proposal was a far cry from negotiated deal and appears to have been put together with little or no input from organized labor. A closer look at the governor’s proposal raises questions over whether its constitutionality, since it appears to offer workers the choice between one diminished benefit or another. The Illinois Supreme Court had struck down a previous pension overhaul offered under Gov. Pat Quinn, saying that the state could not reduce employee benefits once an agreement was entered into.

“President Cullerton recognizes that the governor is accepting of many of the principles he’s outlined but the specifics that the governor is advancing is faraway from policies that Cullerton could support,” said Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon. “To simply co-opt language that the Senate President has used and call that negotiation, really does change the definition of negotiation and compromise. You can’t simply co-opt language and pay lip service to someone’s leadership and call that a negotiation.”

In his news conference, Rauner characterized Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, as the odd man out.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown characterized the pension proposal as “a hodge podge.”

“I don’t know how it stacks up to the court opinion,” Brown said, referencing an Illinois Supreme Court decision that earlier this year struck down a landmark pension reform compromise plan passed in 2011. “We’ll have to take a look.”

Rauner called on Madigan to either pass the governor’s reforms or pass a tax increase to have a balanced budget.

“Go ahead and pass a tax hike. He’s gotta make a choice. He’s in charge. He controls the General Assembly. He’s gotta make a choice,” Rauner said.

When asked if he would sign off on a tax hike, Rauner said he didn’t need to, because Democrats had enough votes to do it without him. Rauner said he remains fundamentally opposed to passing a tax hike without reform.

For his part, Madigan has said that lawmakers gave Rauner a $36 billion spending plan that he could have signed, line item vetoed, or spent below the levels authorized by the General Assembly. Rauner instead vetoed the entirety of the budget bills with the exception of education.

Rauner was pressed on why he didn’t line item veto the budget so that state employees could continue receiving their paychecks. Rauner only said he rejected the full budget because it was out of balance.

“He ignores the fact that he’s totally responsible at this juncture that employees weren’t paid on time,” Brown said of Rauner’s budget veto. ”He is singularly responsible. He held that power.”

The remarks came as the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and the governor remain at a stalemate over the state’s budget. Illinois has been without a budget since the fiscal year began July 1. The pressure is mounting after a court on Tuesday ruled that only certain state workers could only be paid — and only be paid minimum wage.

In addition to announcing the pension bill, Rauner said Republicans on Wednesday would reintroduce five new reform proposals offered up by the governor’s office.

“These are five pieces of legislation that reflect compromise, that we have negotiated with leaders in the General Assembly as well as with the mayor of Chicago, reflecting their ideas and their concerns,” Rauner told reporters.

The legislation addresses: term limits, redistricting reform, property tax freeze, changes to workers compensation laws and lawsuits reform.

Various versions of the proposals have either failed in the General Assembly or have not been called. Brown noted that statewide, local governments rejected adopting Rauner’s ideas, saying “160 cities voted against his schemes.”

“It’s amazing that he doesn’t recognize he’s been unpersuasive on a statewide basis with all these ideas,” Brown said.

via Gov. Rauner pension proposal: Cut benefits for cops, firefighters, teachers.

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One Response to “Gov. Rauner pension proposal: Cut benefits for cops, firefighters, teachers”

  1. Karl-Heinz Gabbey July 9, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    As an experienced teacher, I suggest that Governor Rauner return to grade school for much needed remedial reading lessons.

    He could also use an eighth grade course in civics with an emphasis on the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions, specifically to focus on the separation of powers. You know: the functions of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. On second thought, eighth grade civics may be above his level of comprehension. 3rd or 4th grade might be a good starter, but there’s flexibility in pupil placement.

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