Illinois pension bill falls short

May 5, 2013 

Remember when Illinois passed medical malpractice legislation? It seemed like such a major breakthrough that Democrats had agreed to cap judgments in lawsuits to help contain out-of-control malpractice insurance costs.

But later the state Supreme Court threw out the law as unconstitutional.

We were reminded of that last week when people congratulated the House for passing pension reform. It contains a lot of provisions that would help get the state's pension systems back to fiscal solvency: Raise the retirement age. Cut the annual cost of living adjustment. Increase employee contributions.

But could the bill withstand a court challenge? A lot of people think not. If that's correct, this bill would accomplish nothing.

The Senate's approach of getting the unions to sign onto a bill seems to make more sense -- assuming the changes would save enough money to solve the state's pension crisis.

Another concern about the House bill: Speaker Michael Madigan wants to add a provision that would shift the employer pension costs from the state to individual school districts. If lawmakers were setting up a pension program from scratch, that might make sense. But they would add this burden at a time when local school districts are forced to lay off workers and cut programs because the state has cut education funding and still isn't keeping up to date on payments. Are local school taxpayers supposed to smile when the state dumps a new cost on them?

Madigan said he wants the cost shift because, "I think we have a situation today that sends the bill to a second person to pay. And I think that's a bad policy."

Well, those school taxpayers regularly send money to Springfield with the expectation it will go toward pension costs. What does Madigan call a policy of expecting taxpayers to pay twice? Tyranny?

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