A scant few weeks ago the state, the nation and even the outside world were abuzz with the drama of the pension “crisis” in Illinois.
The Illinois House and Senate, after a year of paralysis, passed dueling “reform” bills, one from Speaker Madigan and the other from Senate President Cullerton . The Illinois legislature adjourned on May 31, 2013, with this impasse unresolved. This led to two of the rating agencies, Fitch and Moody’s, cutting Illinois’ bond rating. Standard & Poors had correctly predicted that the Illinois legislature would be unable to accomplish anything, and had already cut the state’s bond rating. Then, Governor Quinn’s attempted one day “special session” accomplished nothing — except the appointment of a “conference committee”. The Committee has the unenviable task of solving the pension crisis. So far, despite having Governor Quinn cut all legislative pay, nothing has yet emerged from the Committee.
The cynical but realistic expectation was that the Committee would produce some patched-together compromise between the Madigan bill and the Cullerton bill. What was not expected was that the Committee would take all summer to produce nothing. Despite occasional rumors that the Committee was going to publish its proposal, so far it has not. Labor Day swiftly approaches, school has already begun for many children, and the lazy, hazy, sunny days are running out.
As we have repeatedly suggested, neither of the current bills, nor any slapped together amalgam of them, will truly resolve the pension crisis, for many reasons. Critically, both the Madigan and Cullerton bills contain a funding guarantee which would constitutionally bind the State to the payments in the bill, making reform in the inevitable future crisis even harder. And both continue with the defined benefits approach, which has proven to be non-viable.
As we have also suggested, there is a genuine reform proposal which the Committee should adopt. HB 3303 was introduced by state Reps. Tom Morrison and Jeanne Ives, and SB 2026 was introduced by state Sen. Jim Oberweis. If this plan were adopted it would, cut the Illinois’ unfunded pension debt in half and would fully fund pensions in the future with a defined contribution plan.
So, let’s ask the ten members of the Committee to adopt real pension reform in Illinois:
- Daniel Biss, D-Skokie
- Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago
- Linda Holmes, D-Aurora
- Matt Murphy, R-Palatine
- Bill Brady, R-Bloomington
- Elaine Nekritz, D-Buffalo Grove
- Art Turner, D-Chicago
- Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside
- Darlene Senger, R-Naperville
- Jil Tracy, R-Quincy