Illinois Pension Bill Signed by Quinn has Fatal Flaws

illinoisThe Illinois pension bill signed by Quinn has fatal flaws that will almost certainly prevent it from going into effect on June 1st as scheduled. The fact that Governor Quinn did not choose to create a public event for his signing of the bill, as is his custom, indicates more clearly than words how concerned he is about the fate of the bill. While trying to dig the state out of what has been described as the most devastating pension crisis in the entire nation, Quinn has failed several times to come to the point of any agreement on the issue in the legislature. Today’s signing represents the first significant achievement with respect to cleaning up the mess left by decades of Illinois state leaders creating the shortfall of over 100 billion dollars. This agreement has been reached and signed into law, but there is little chance of it surviving the fatal flaws that exist as a result of the negotiations that brought the bill to this point.

The labor unions have already prepared to pose challenges in the form of multiple lawsuits. The primary legal challenge questions the constitutionality of the bill because of the clause in the Illinois constitution that forbids diminishing payouts on benefits from pensions. The argument being made to counter the challenge is that the diminishing payouts are counterbalanced by the funding guarantee included in the law, as well as the decrease in the amounts pension recipients will have to contribute of their own money. It is considered by many to be an argument that compares apples to oranges, and will have a difficult time standing up in the courts. It is the very people of Illinois, pension recipients or not, that reveal the most fatal of the flaws extant in this pension bill that Governor Quinn has signed. All eyes are on this now, and the sacrifices that this bill asks the people of the state of Illinois to make might well bring them to the point of outright rebellion. After the sacrifices already made by citizens of the state in terms of money diverted from education and infrastructure to fund the horribly managed pension fund, this bill simply asks too much of the good people of Illinois. Before June 1st arrives, the Governor might well wish that the only opposition the bill would face was the challenge from the labor unions.

The credit rating of the state is shot due to the shortfall created by past legislators. Essential services and programs in education and social services are being choked in order to fix the shortfall. The answer being presented in this bill puts the burden of funding and fixing these problems squarely on the backs of those young people enrolled in those schools and programs who have already been choked for years.  This new bill asks them to pay one percentage point of their pay toward ensuring that the funding guarantee is supplied. It increases the age at which they will be able to get retirement benefits themselves when the time comes. It also drastically effects the states ability to provide cost-of-living increases, and institutes a scaled reduction of those increases. Whether or not this bill survives the constitutionality challenge in the Illinois courts, this bill that Governor Quinn signed has fatal flaws that will bring a significant portion of his constituency to the point of demanding its defeat.

By Jim Malone

Chicago Tribune

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