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The Civic Committee overreaches on pensions. “Fahner made himself irrelevant.”

November 19, 2012

Talk about a fall from grace.

It was only a year ago.

Ty Fahner, former Attorney General under Governor “Big Jim” Thompson and now head of the corporate Civic Committee, was considered important enough that he signed his name along with Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to the letter announcing the withdrawal of the pension gutting SB512 from consideration in the lass General Assembly session.

Now Rich Miller, who publishes the authoritative Springfield blog Capitolfax, reports that one top Democratic official describes him as “irrelevant.”

Fahner has never been considered all that going back to his days when he was leading the investigation of the Tylenol killer. That investigation resulted in nothing. The killer has never been found.

While serving as Attorney General under Thompson, the state’s multiple pension systems were allowed to go underfunded, even though now Fahner admits that a similar practice by an employer in the private sector would lead to prosecution.

In his new role as chief corporate mouthpiece for the Civic Committee, Fahner has blundered again.

Says Miller:

Fahner’s histrionics last week over what he claimed was an “unfixable” pension problem have all but cut him out of the statehouse mix.

“He’s made himself irrelevant,” said one top Democratic official who’s intimately involved with pension reform.

In a memo to Civic Committee members, Fahner wrote that “the pension crisis has grown so severe that it is now unfixable. There simply won’t be enough money” to pay pensions for young teachers just starting out.

But then Fahner constructed a bizarre dichotomy by both claiming the problem to be completely unfixable while simultaneously demanding specific changes to the state’s pension systems. He said four things had to be done “just to slow the bleeding and reduce the size of the financial burden Illinois taxpayers must bear.”

Those four items included eliminating annual cost-of-living raises for pensioners, instituting a pension salary cap, increasing the retirement age to 67 and shifting the teachers’ pension costs to school districts and universities.

Because he said there was no real fix, there’s little to no use in negotiating with Fahner now because any solution the General Assembly comes up with will be dismissed by him as wholly inadequate.

Legislative thinking goes like this: Why bend over backward to accommodate someone who will never admit that you did the right thing?

There’s absolutely no political or legislative advantage to dealing with the guy.

Of course, there is more to this than just the blathering of a self-absorbed La Salle Street lawyer.

There still remains no consensus in Springfield on cutting pension benefits and shifting the cost of the pension obligation to local school boards and governments.

While Madigan’s COLA – Health care choice bill might pass the House, it is less likely to get through the Senate either in the veto session or the new session that starts later in January.

The current threats to public employee pensions become even more problematic if the members of the pension system can mobilize even beyond the 1.7 million no votes they turned out on November 6th to defeat the pension cutting Constitutional Amendment.

While we can’t rest on our victories, count the defeat of the Constitutional Amendment and Ty Fahner’s new-found irrelevancy as two big ones.

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