I am writing this letter to understand state Sen. Don Harmon's recent comments to the Wednesday Journal [Harmon hopes fall brings pension reform, News, July 4]. I, and others I've spoken with, hope that, as our representative, Sen. Harmon can be a bit more forthcoming. Allow me to openly ask the following:
1) When you say, "I think shifting the costs to the school districts makes a lot of sense," do you include poor rural farming districts, small towns with little or no commercial tax base, and, importantly, districts such as our District 97 that had to make the hard decision in 2011 to ask voters for a big levy because it was unable to meet ongoing operating costs? Isn't this simply the state's way of avoiding responsibility for its history of decisions?
2) When you say, school districts need to be "responsible" with their funding strategies, can't the state set firm rules for all districts to follow? What is being discussed by Mr. Quinn, Mr. Cullerton and Mr. Madigan, our state leadership, regarding statewide rules that will limit the excesses you refer to?
3) When you say, most school districts you and your colleagues have talked with say they could take on the responsibility, can you tell us how District 200 and District 97 reacted to your inquiry? More importantly, can you tell us what are these estimated costs that you discussed with districts 200 and 97 and what the costs will look like for Oak Park taxpayers in year one and in subsequent years to the end of the phase-in period?
4) When you say you were "baffled at how many Republicans clamoring for pension reform would get cold feet when they were pressing to do it," are you referring to the viral video of state Rep. Mike Bost's reaction to Speaker Madigan's last-minute pension proposal (Illinois Representative Furious Over Pension Reform – YouTube)? The video was picked up across the country and on most major networks.
Like Rep. Bost, I think Oak Park taxpayers don't want to be surprised when you and the state's leaders "muster the Democrat's majority to do the right thing" at the last minute. Whatever it is you have in mind, I think you should lay it out plainly for us to understand so we can let you know if we agree. That's pretty democratic.
Brian Lantz is an Oak Park resident.