Opposed to alleged pension reform amendment

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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We are writing to urge readers to VOTE NO on the Constitutional Amendment to the Illinois Constitution, which will be on the ballot for the upcoming election. Clause 1 of the proposed amendment reads:

"No bill, except a bill for appropriation, that provides a benefit increase under any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit or local government or school district or an agency thereof, shall become law without the concurrence of three-fifths of the members of the General Assembly."

This amendment does not address pension reform, as its supporters claim. It restricts the ability of over 7,000 units of local government to make their own decisions and denies simple majority rule, a tenet of our state and our nation. It identifies a single group and a single issue, calling for that group and that issue to be treated differently than any other. This is discrimination, not equal protection under the law, and it is definitely not pension reform.

As annuitants of SURS and TRS, we oppose this Constitutional Amendment. Its language is virtually incomprehensible for the average voter and, if you can't understand it (we cannot), don't vote for it! This is especially true when it will become a permanent part of the Illinois Constitution.

We believe that this amendment will cost Illinois Taxpayers more than $70 million and will be litigated in our courts for years to come.

We urge you to VOTE NO! to the proposed Constitutional Amendment.

Patricia Bauhs, MaryAnne Fitzpatrick, Kathleen Stewart

Oak Park

Reader Comments

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Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: October 27th, 2012 10:22 AM

I got a robocall from the AFSCME union about this yesterday urging me to vote no, which I will do. However it's ironic that the recording said "...the politicians are at it again...". The politicians are the very party that AFSCME supports...the Democrats that control this state. I'm voting for the party that really supports the workers, the Green Party. See jillstein.org.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 27th, 2012 10:03 AM

that means a potential of $3.3 billion in losses going undetected. So its a large issue getting no solutions. Compare that to AMX that has a fraud rate of less that .2%. Finally back to pensions. A letter is circling around RF about pensions paid to workers. After a quick look up you see examples of pension folly. One worker will make $95K for life starting at age 58 after putting only $123K in the pension. Come on... that is just wrong to the taxpayer.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 27th, 2012 9:59 AM

"Reckless Enlargement" is a must read if you care about the real causes and possible solutions. G knew the issues but did nothing even though many people pointed to the problems. So it stands to reason you must fix G first. The SSA and disability is a great point on how bad the Fed G is at management. A recent IGR pegs fraud at at least $339 Million a year. Go inside the numbers and see that this number is just "reported" cases. Also the SSA reports that it only reviewing 1/3 of claims

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 27th, 2012 9:48 AM

common? These are examples of G being complicit in helping create the crisis. I especially like the chapters dealing with James A Johnson and the $200 Million he got from Fannie. Soon Mr. Johnson would become a bundler for Obama. Point is that G does not work as well as we would like it. However getting to better G means understanding where fault lies. To assume for one second that "greedy" corps where the only cause of the crisis is just wrong. G had a large part in the problem.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 27th, 2012 9:40 AM

Glass-Steagall was wrongly;y repealed instead of reformed by Democrats paying off investment bankers. Dodd-Frank is seriously flawed and does little to solve our problems in CFT area where oil traders have us over a barrel. Remember how Obama and Dems where going to solve that? Remember "Friends of Angelo?" Remember Brooksley Born? How about HR 1461 of the 109th congress? Check out Franklin Raines? Have you read "Reckless Endangerment" by Gretchen Morgenson? What do these things have in


Posted: October 27th, 2012 12:57 AM

Dylan B - Corporations need to do whatever necessary to remain profitable and competitive - whatever the market will bear. Corporations/people take the daily risks/rewards and employees in turn benefit. Sounds like you feel that "that someome" is being victimized. Other than "corporations bad", what is your point - really, can you explain?


Posted: October 27th, 2012 12:19 AM

Dylan - I never said it was ok to break the law-why are you saying that. We had a tenant who had two children -two different living fathers. She told us that her children were each collecting $500 social security/mo.-she was receiving disability & food stamps. This was her sole imcome. These details arose as she explained how & when the rent was to be paid. You would have to call the SSA to verify her claims. What's this about corporations defrauding govt?


Posted: October 26th, 2012 11:22 PM

Mr. Middle, And those folks broke the law. But rj was making the statement that it was OKAY, and not against the law for folks to withdraw social security if they had no reason. RJ falsy stated that "single poor mothers" are collecting social security, and they aren't because they can't. However, no one claims there are law breakers.... but again, why focus on the guy getting an extra few 100 a month, and not the Corporation defrauding the GOV through medicare/medcaid?


Posted: October 26th, 2012 11:18 PM

Mr. Middle, So you think we should reinstate Glass-Steagall right? Do you also think that Dodd-Frank was the right step, though it needs to be tweaked. How can we damn the government for mismanagement when we just had a global economic crisis due to private banks, insurance, and legalized gambling on wall street ? Was the Great Depression caused by the Gov.? No, it was by PRIVATE institutions. But we focus so much distrust and hate onto the Government? Something seems wrong with that.

Dylan Bellisle  

Posted: October 26th, 2012 11:14 PM

rj, Yes! Corporations earned their profits, just as workers earned their benefits. If a corporation wants to increase revenue what can it do? Raise prices, cut staff, lower wages, cut expenses. As you see an option is to raise prices. And Corporations do this all the time, if they are able to. Corporate profit, in my opinion, is reaped from the risk someone took but is really just benefiting from someone elses work.


Posted: October 26th, 2012 11:11 PM

Common Sense, And your lack of courtesy is astounding. So your telling my 100% of the profit in ALL corporations, regardless of their business, goes to pensions and retirement accounts? I never used the words "tax the crap out of" and I also mentioned banks which are sitting on trillions.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 26th, 2012 10:05 AM

does not solve the issue. So you will forever change SS to a benefit program not a pension program. I also have to tell Dylan that as a small business person I have personally witness over a dozen cases of employees on SS disability who where working, get caught and then quit so they keep the disability. In most cases SS does not come after them for the money. There is a widely used scam I am aware of with Drs that teach people how to work and get SS for 6 months.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 26th, 2012 10:01 AM

@ Dylan. I know the Michael Mooore line about we are not bankrupt may seem right but it needs further explanation. Privately we are far from bankrupt but our public G are very bankrupt. They are so because of mismanagement. If a person mismanages your money do give them more so they can manage it better. Of course not, you have him prove himself before he earns more. This is how I feel about G. You are correct about SS raising the cap. However, raising the cap with out limiting the benefit


Posted: October 26th, 2012 10:00 AM

Public workers earn their salaries like everyone else. All the pension benefits promised are now unfunded liabilities. From all your comments it seems your solution is for the govt to seize all private profits - as you said, "we just lack the courage to get the money". Corporations have earned their profits. You have options as to whether you want to contribute to them. You have no participating options when the govt deems a flawed social program based on their prospects of an election.

Common Sense  

Posted: October 26th, 2012 9:46 AM

Dylan, your lack of basic finance and economics is astounding. The trillions of dollars you are referring to in corporations is owned by the shareholders of those corporations. Let me spell it out for you, the shareholders are the very pension funds that are in place for teachers, firefighters, etc. If you taxed the crap out of corporations, all you are doing is hurting the pensions of the very people you are supposed to be helping.


Posted: October 26th, 2012 9:45 AM

rj "additional SS benefits to children of single mothers-with no contributions made" Can you explain what you are talking about here, from my understand there are SS survivor benefits, and disability payments. You can't get SS simply for being a single mother and poor....


Posted: October 26th, 2012 9:40 AM

Mr. Middle, "So how do you solve this without touching current benefits." Again I disagree. As I have already said we have money, but its concentrated. You brought up SS. If we lift the cap on income that is taxed for SS we would pretty much take care of our SS issue. Instead politicians will not make the wealthy pay on ALL their income (though I, and probably yourself pay on all our income), they want workers to work longer.


Posted: October 26th, 2012 9:35 AM

rj, So earning a extra benefit from actual work is a hand-out but earning extra money from profit is not considered a hand-out? Profit is rewarded because of risk taking - and its actually created from OTHERS work. Wages and pensions are rewarded because of the work of an individual. We are not bankrupt, you can keep saying it all you want, but its simply not true. We have Trillions of dollars in Corporations and Banks.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 26th, 2012 9:19 AM

can have their retirement age push back a little and COLA be tied to last year of work instead on compounding. Also, average last 15 years of work not 5 and get rid of the games. In the future promise great pensions to those that risk their life like fireman and police. Offer these people retirement in late 50s. Teachers should have a solid pension available to them at 65 and pay/receive SS. Other worker should pay SS and get a 401K like similar people in private work.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 26th, 2012 9:16 AM

be reasonably be paid given contribution level. So if SS will end up paying someone more benefits than contributed is that not the responsibility of every American to contribute? Why do G workers not have to and receive a pension that is far superior for less investment? I pay for my Mother and the Mother of a State worker in this example. So how do you solve this without touching current benefits. Reasonably you cannot. However that does not mean you have to gut them. Current members

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 26th, 2012 9:11 AM

workers that you will pay less and get more than SS. In essence G privatized SS for G workers. Never a good idea in my mind. Then G gave benefits far superior to SS yet paid in less money by design. SO G decided that the returns would always be great so lets stop putting in money. So now people retire early and live longer. That's a bad financial mix. So much like SS these pensions have become benefits paid beyond contributions and in the case of IL pensions benefits that could never

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 26th, 2012 9:05 AM

The problem with rj's position is it seems to point fingers instead of understand why we are here. Rj's anger may be justified but for the wrong reasons. Dylan feels pensions are earned, which they are, but have they truly been earned to the level promised. Here is a question to ask that may lead to a solutions; why do G workers not pay into SS? The answer is that long ago Gs sold the taxpayer that it was cheaper then the employee and G paying 15% into SS. G then turned around and said to


Posted: October 26th, 2012 12:30 AM

The same concept applies to SS. Most people did not live beyond 65 at the inception of this Ponzi scheme. When one retires at 62 and lives well into their 80's or 90's at some point they have out lived what they have contributed into the program. It then becomes a handout or welfare. That's why the program is going broke. Add to that additional SS benefits to children of single mothers-with no contributions made, food stamps, section 8 housing, medicaid. We are indeed bankrupt.


Posted: October 26th, 2012 12:12 AM

ALL public sector workers, collecting public pensions, when retired, quickly exceed the monies they have contributed to same. When that occurs they are being handed someone else's money to sustain the promises made by the politicians to sustain them, who in turn reap the same benefits. God forbid we call it what it is-a handout to someone from someone in the private sector who probably earns far less, as well as their SS benefits when they retire which are a pittance in comparison.


Posted: October 25th, 2012 11:16 PM

So are you saying that Teachers, police, firefighters, public health workers - all those people are getting hand outs? We are talking about pensions here, not welfare. Pensions are earned. We are not bankrupt, thats a talking point. We are the richest nation on earth. Period. The money is concentrated in the hands of the few. Actually the purpose of the State Government is much more than "defend and protect" thats why the IL Constitution is much longer than the US Constitution.


Posted: October 25th, 2012 10:53 PM

Yes, Dylan you make it very personal to me when you keep insisting that, to the detriment of this country, families & future generations we continue this insanity at all cost. Fair? That's not fair either. You can spin it any way you want, if that makes you feel better, but we're bankrupt. The purpose of this govt, is to defend & protect us- not to redistribute wealth to the point that we become a nanny nation. Big govt, the real villain, has created all this dysfunction/dislocation & chaos.


Posted: October 25th, 2012 10:50 PM

There are reforms that I think are acceptable. Depending on the profession I think the retirement age should be raised to me more in line with SS. For Police and firefighters though it shouldn't due to the high stress job, and lower life-expectancy. That tweak could help alot. Again, my issue is that I don't accept the "we don't have the money" line. Because we do, its just concentrated. I agree with you on Education, but how we fund Education is a whole other box of worms...

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 25th, 2012 8:55 PM

We cannot become a State that spends more on retirees than students. That is a recipe to become Mississippi. Like the business man each side will have to give in to the middle for both to survive.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 25th, 2012 8:53 PM

what is happening. The plan does not work at those numbers and would require substantial increases in revenue. Its not fair to ask for those $ until you actually have a plan that works. Secondly, Pensions are for retirement. To many early retirements put pressure on the system. Pensions should be limited to 65 and older just like SS. (exceptions for disabilities) Lastly we are on a path in Illinois to spend more on Pensions than education. We are already in the top 25 in per student.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 25th, 2012 8:44 PM

@ Dylan. The problem with pensions is very similar to that of a business man. Without employees he has no customers and with customers he has no employees. To be successful he must respect employees to get what they all need, customers. However, a business that over-promises employees pay and takes for granted customer loyalty will fail. That is Illinois. To start with you have to assure that the actuarial science of the plan works. Illinois has been banking on 9-12% returns when 4-6 is


Posted: October 25th, 2012 8:26 PM

Also your statement about "redistributes the toil of the makers & gives to the takers" is far off. The Financial Industry has grown tremendously and its % of GDP has increased greatly. The Financial Industry does not create ANYTHING. Its legalized gambling. Betting on the prospect of a successful business, product, future, or commodity and be rewarded when it succeeds. Actually, unless things are changed, its a system that with implode. For us to only return to having REAL makers.


Posted: October 25th, 2012 8:21 PM

rj, this is why I enjoy talking with folks like Mr. Middle, because folks like yourself get personal and go with talking points. Firstly, we are not bankrupt. Look at Corporate profits and the banks. Who asked for corrupt bloated gov. ? Not me. How is paying a teacher or firefighter a decent wage and giving them what you promised "corrupt and bloated gov." The PURPOSE of Government IS redistribution. It collects money and spends it - education, military, public health, etc.


Posted: October 25th, 2012 8:16 PM

Mr. Middle, So because some people gambled everyone should suffer? The teacher? the Firefighter? That doesn't make sense. Hold those ones accountable that gambled. Those who were rewarded. Then fix the system to work for those the promises were made to. Then reform it for those who are coming into it. Lastly, I really like Toni, i think she has been doing a good job.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 25th, 2012 5:00 PM

A word about good G. Today the Trib has two great editorials on the job Toni Prekwinkle is doing. They are inspiring. I know her to be an honest person with a large heart but a tough has nails manner. She expect actual results you can put on paper...Bravo! Funny how many in her own party do not trust her. Why? She is delivering. Could it be that she actually fires people? Could it be that she has actually cut staff and asks for less money? We need more like her.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 25th, 2012 4:56 PM

2008 and in fact began to have issues under Walker over 30 years ago. Actuaries knew these plans where based on far too rosy outlook then. So who is to blame? In my mind the taxpayer paid the correct amount and politician blew it. Should that Pol keep his job? Should that party continue to receive the support of the very people it has put in jeopardy? Should benefits be continued to be paid at levels that where never sound accounting? Its not fair to everyone. Who is to blame???

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 25th, 2012 4:45 PM

@ Dylan. We are probably not far apart in asking for good G but there is a moral issue involved here with Politicians. Promises where made by G that the members of that G did not keep. They received votes based upon their ability to manage and maintain these needed pensions. They then played games with the money and rewarded their friends actually stealing the money. Who is to blame? You and I paid and the G went to Vegas. Should we pay again? Remember, these promises had $ issues before


Posted: October 25th, 2012 4:20 PM

So the language is so incomprehensible that you admittedly cannot understand it but someone you were able to figure out that it will cost taxpayers $70 million?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: October 25th, 2012 4:11 PM

We get taxed on our income. Then we pay tax on our purchases. Then we pay fees that are really taxes in disguise. We pay annual property taxes on a home or business purchased with income that we were already taxed on once. Then when we die, we pay taxes on what we leave to our heirs. I'm sure I'm simplifying this tremendously, but I think you get what I mean. Something has to give


Posted: October 25th, 2012 4:10 PM

Dylan -You need to snap out of your Utopian fantasy. We are bankrupt as a nation. Printing, borrowing and taxing is not working. It is NOT patriotic to want a bloated, corrupt govt that redistributes the toil of the makers & gives to the takers. Politicians over promised the unions. That's what happens when you keep voting in the same morons with a D after their name. They're no longer public servants-we are. It was just a matter of time before it hit the fan. Results of a nanny state.


Posted: October 25th, 2012 3:25 PM

What we need is a progressive income tax for the state as well, and ask the rich to pay a little more. It is patriotic to want to have a good government. A government that works well for the people, and the only way to do that is to have a good government work force. Are there reforms to be made? Of course, but going after people's well-being and giving them less because "we don't have money" is not fair, when its simply not true. Just lack of courage to get the money.


Posted: October 25th, 2012 3:23 PM

Mr. Middle, We made a promise to those workers firstly, so any effort to change current benefits to current workers I am totally against. Its not their fault the State mismanaged. Secondly, Why do we continue to go after teachers, firefighters, police, and other government employees and cut their general well-being, while there are thousands of millionaires doing quite fine not being asked to pay a cent more. That is immoral in my eyes.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 25th, 2012 2:41 PM

When will we get serious about this crisis? This amendment may be a stunt, but sometime very soon there will be a reckoning! http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/business/illinois-debt-takes-toll-on-services-study-finds.html?_r=0

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 24th, 2012 11:20 AM

However, this amendment has my support as a way of protecting the taxpayer from insider pension deals which ruins the credibility of these valued programs. My guess is that this also would force a compromise that is badly needed between to fix this broken system. I understand your concerns about it, but something must be done.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 24th, 2012 11:17 AM

In regards to your equal protection/super-majority argument there are no issues there. Vetos can be overturned with super majorities and there are similar super-majority initiatives in all forms of G that have withstood legal challenges. A local one is the VORF that passed as a companion measure to need a super-majority to raise property tax levies if HR goes into effect. Your argument that vote no because of confusing language...well you have my support there usually.

Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 24th, 2012 11:13 AM

A few things to correct in your reasons for not supporting this amendment. First neither the State nor the Fed G is setup as a majority rule. There is a balance of powers between branches and in the case of the Senate/House a legislative balance of power. Our Gs also are specifically formed to protect the minority viewpoint something that served this country very well through troubled times. Majorities also do not rule when an Executive can veto a bill and a judge can reverse/modify a bill.


Posted: October 23rd, 2012 11:27 PM

Here here! I agree!

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