It is early, very early Thursday morning.
I’m leaving for Niles in a little while to catch the bus to the Springfield pension rally. It’s a 6:30AM bus.
And I got home last night at about 10:30PM from the meeting at East Aurora High School organized by Jobs with Justice folks and their leader John Laesch.
I was on the panel that was there to present the lesson of the evening to Representative Elaine Nekrtiz. Nekritz is the chief sponsor of the latest poison pill for public employee pensions and is the Democrat who chairs the House Pension Committee.
The lesson: We have a revenue problem, not a pension problem.
Nekritz is a just plain awful person.
John had done a great job in assembling a panel:
Maria Owens is a retired 30 year teaching veteran. Currently, Maria works as a Regional Induction Specialist with the Illinois New Teacher Collaborative in conjunction with the University of Illinois where she supports Induction/Mentoring Programs for beginning teachers throughout northern Illinois. Maria is active in both the IEA-Retired and the IRTA. She currently serves as V.P. for Programs for the West Suburban IEA-R and serves on the Executive Board of the DuPage Chapter of IRTA where she produces their bi-monthly newsletter.
Dr. Vincent Gaddis is professor of History and chair of the Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies at Benedictine University. He is a resident of Aurora, Illinois and is active in local political and social movements.
Dr. Ron Baiman is a founding member of the Chicago Political Economy Group. He has worked as Director of Budget and Policy Analysis for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in Chicago, Research Economist for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, and as a researcher for: Loyola University’s Center for Urban Research and Learning, the Institute of Government and Public Affairs of the University of Illinois, and the Center for Urban Economic Development at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Dr. William Barclay is a founding member of the Chicago Political Economy Group (CPEG; http://www.cpegonline.org). Prior to retiring in 2004, he worked for 22 years in financial services. His areas of expertise were financial product creation, including development of derivative products, and business strategy planning. Currently he is an Adjunct Professor in the Liautaud College of Business Administration at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He serves on the boards of the Illinois Finance Authority and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.
Dr. Jean Pierce is a retired professor and chair of the Faculty of Educational Psychology at Northern Illinois University. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Her research is focused on learning and motivation in education. She is actively involved with the League of Women Voters. At the national level, her essay about School Funding and Equity informed the membership when they created a position on the role of the federal government in education. At the state level, she is a specialist in Educational Funding.
Oh. And then there was me.
Maria Owens explained to the audience, Nekritz and local state Representative Linda Chapa La Via some pension funding history. Dr. Gaddis gave a social justice perspective. Dr. Baiman provided clear direction for funding alternatives as did Dr. Barclay. And Dr. Pierce explained the progressive graduated income tax.
By the way, aside from a s**t-load of local politicians, the overwhelming number of those attending were active and retired teachers. I know because I asked the 250 people who were there. Most hands went up.
The message we all gave was that this was a revenue issue, not a pension or spending issue.
Illinois spends less and taxes less than comparable states. Going after pensions is just bad economic and social policy.
But Nekritz looked sour and clearly wished she was somewhere else.
She was condescending and dismissive.
During the Q and A, when someone from the audience suggested that the legislature had taken our pension money to spend on other things, Nekritz responded tersely. “We didn’t take money out. We just didn’t put money in.”
I had enough. In spite of a request from John that we all be respectful, I grabbed my mic and said, “That is a distinction without a difference, Representative Nekritz. You failed to make any pensions payments, zero, for a couple of years and you say that’s not taking money from the pension system.”
It is that kind of moral hair-splitting that makes people think politicians are snakes.
Tim Furman has a video.