Gonna take a miracle to deal with pensions in Illinois

Opinion: Editorials

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Don Harmon has faith in Springfield politicians to do the right thing. He told a gathering of constituents, Friday morning, that he was "optimistic" genuine fixes to the state's pension plan will be made and before an actual "pension crisis" comes to pass. From his statement to a large crowd at the Business and Civic Council at the Carleton Hotel, it would seem that we have different definitions of a crisis.

We'd say that a state regularly facing downgrades on its debt is in crisis. A state that can't pay its bills to social service providers in a timely way is in crisis. A state that raises income taxes by $6 billion annually and is just barely keeping pace with added pension demands is in crisis. A state controlled on all levels by a single political party that still can't pass pension reform is in crisis.

Harmon, the Democratic state senator from Oak Park, asked for patience as he implied that it can't be a crisis if the state has never missed a pension check for a retired teacher or state trooper. Respectfully, we'd say that is a politician's definition of crisis, not the sober assessment of a taxpayer who is paying much more to the state, lacks a pension of his own and still hasn't seen a true solution to a grievous problem.

Harmon offered a worthy tutorial to the assembled and made valid points, often underreported in the media, about progress the state has made in shrinking its head count of employees and the low- to mid-range point that Illinois' income tax is set at. That the head count was inflated for decades and that having higher income taxes isn't the goal, doesn't change the truth that progress has been made. That such progress has been made and we're still in this pickle is troubling.

Sen. Harmon seems sincere when he says the current fight between House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton is a sincere difference of political philosophies. Seems implicit though that the very sincerity of this dispute makes most other static in the capitol a political charade. But that is another issue. Madigan and Cullerton have to find a path to resolving the pension crisis. Sen. Harmon has faith in them. We don't. We pray he is correct.

Reader Comments

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Robert from OP  

Posted: July 4th, 2013 2:28 PM

@Terry - glad you see the glass half full. What did he say were some of his ideas for solution. Also, are you aware of his affiliations with Cullerton? It was documented in the Tribune Series - on problems of the state. I will agree with you, at events, he seems like you next door neighbor. However, it is what he does behind closed doors and who he does it for that are the problems.

Terry Grace from Oak Park   

Posted: July 4th, 2013 11:21 AM

The comments here reflect a very visceral attitude towards Sen. Harmon, who I believe is a real asset to our community. I will agree that our state is in crisis at this time and that major steps need to be taken. I have researched this issue independently, and Harmon's figures are basically accurate. I have also discussed the pension crisis with him. He is one of the politicians who is working to develop real solutions to this issue. I'm very glad he is our State Senator.

Robert from OP  

Posted: July 4th, 2013 1:26 AM

On this July 4th, let us free our selves, and get a Sen. that will represent us, and not lie to us. Today, lets start to take back OP so all are represented. Harmon is not telling the truth on any of this. What are the steps needed to begin to make a race next election?

JMG  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 10:02 PM

Harmon runs unopposed, I would have voted anyone but teflon rose glasses Don. He runs unopposed by design of the 2 powerful politicos in the state that keep him in office at OUR cost and WITHOUT our voice.

OPRF Achievement  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 9:30 PM

@Dan H., Sen Harmon is THE henchman and main man for Cullerton. You may be right about Cullerton being in charge - but none of it could stick without Harmon. This is who Cullerton sends around Springfield to Round up the Votes.

Dan Hefner from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 1:59 PM

Don Harmon, "may have faith ", but the vast majority of Illinois citizens "do not have faith". The government of Illinois is run by two life long politicians they are Cullerton i n the Senate & Madigan in the House. Together with the compliance of their Democratic/Republican :combine colleagues they have succeeded in making Illinois the poster child for dysfunctional & corrupt state government. The house & senate members do as they are told, by Cullerton & Madigan, make no mistake about it!

muntz  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 12:23 PM

Once again, Harmon uses questionnable language when explaining the state income tax hike. He states "the low- to mid-range point that Illinois' income tax is set at" compared to other states. But he fails to mention our overall tax BURDEN. IL consistently ranks in the bottom 10 states in this regard. Once again, hiding behind biased numbers will not solve our problems.

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