The regular session of the Illinois General Assembly ends Friday.
The Illinois legislature, which over decades has built up a $100 billion unfunded pension liability, now is a study in gridlock. Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton each are pushing competing versions of a fix and each refuses to take action on the other lawmaker’s bill.
There is no clear path toward resolution. A Madigan-backed bill is hung up in the Senate, where Cullerton controls the legislative calendar, and Madigan has Cullerton’s plan bottled up in the House, which he controls.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross said the Democratic leaders have the power to take action and need to exercise it. “When the two of them want to accomplish something regardless of its magnitude they get it done,” Cross said. “There is no upside to inaction.”
Of course there is an upside to inaction. The Republican House leader only says that because his pension won’t be cut and his pals in the Commercial Club will continue to make out like bandits.
The upside is that public employees will continue to have their promised constitutionally protected pensions.
That is why we call for legislative no votes on SB1, SB2404 and no votes on a pension cost shift.
There is a downside. The unfunded pension liability will continue to grow. That would happen anyway, since neither SB1 or SB2404 address the revenue problem.
Both continue the practice of addressing the state’s funding problems by stealing from public employee pensions and by going after our benefits.
When the state’s political leaders argue over which bill saves more money, they mean which bill cuts more pension benefits.
Given the choices, sometimes the best thing to happen is for nothing to happen.
This is not the orientation of the state’s public employee union leaders, however.
By working with Senate President Cullerton to craft SB2404 they take the world view of my Aunt Sylvia. Aunt Sylvia had two responses to things:
“It could be worse!”
“It’s better than nothing.”
I was fond of my Aunt Sylvia. But I wouldn’t want her running my union.
This is not, as some in and out of state union leadership suggest, an anti-union view.
It is very much a pro-union view.
Compare and contrast the views of the union that represents Chicago teachers with those of the We Are One coalition that bargained SB2404 with Cullerton.
Faced with a mayor that has become the poster child for attacks on public education, the response of the CTU leadership is, “We must change the political landscape.”
Faced with a City Council that, except for a handful of alderman, is a rubber stamp for the Mayor, the CTU is spearheading a campaign to register 250,000 city voters.
If we can reach that goal you can kiss the Mayor, along with some of his aldermanic and legislative groupies good-bye.
This is not a case of channeling a Movement into an electoral campaign.
This reminds most old-timers like me who worked the precincts for Harold Washington as channeling an election campaign into the Movement.
It also creates a stark contrast between two types of union leadership.
I loved my Aunt Sylvia, burt I wouldn’t vote for her to lead the IEA.
I’m sure Karen Lewis makes for a wonderful aunt.
And she is the very picture of what we need as a union leader.