Can somebody please explain Senator Iris Martinez to me. She is my State Senator.


Chicago Democratic State Senator Iris Martinez.

She’s my State Senator. But I don’t understand her.

On Tuesday she voted for SB1. She is a pension thief.

But on Friday she sent an email to me and her other constituents which said she voted for SB1 because she was against it.

I have heard versions of this story from other Representatives and Senators who I have talked with these past view weeks. But none put it as boldly and incomprehensibly at Senator Martinez.

While SB 1 will alleviate some of these budget pressures, it does not – in my opinion – meet the requirements of the state constitution. I believe sending a plan to the courts is the necessary next step. It is my hope that, once the new law is ruled unconstitutional, my colleagues and I will be able to return to the drawing board and agree on a negotiated, fair solution that does not unilaterally diminish benefits. Approving the conference committee plan will set this process in motion after more than a year of inertia benefitting no one.

She believes SB1 does not meet the requirements of the state constitution.

She hopes it will be ruled unconstitutional.

But she voted for it.


Dear Friends,
First, I would like to thank you for the valuable input you and other constituents have given me during the past year and a half as I’ve considered various pension reform proposals introduced in the General Assembly. I have taken your thoughts into careful consideration while wrestling with this extremely complex and difficult issue.
On Tuesday, the House and Senate approved a comprehensive pension reform package (Senate Bill 1) expected to save the state of Illinois $160 billion over the next 30 years. I reluctantly voted in favor of this legislation.
Senate Bill 1 was by no means a perfect bill, and I was particularly disappointed that agreement could not be reached on Senate Bill 2404, which was negotiated with public employee unions and which I strongly supported. But while legislators were deadlocked over pension reform, Illinois’ unfunded pension liability continued to mount, putting us in a weaker position to borrow money to improve schools, roads and other infrastructure. Most importantly, the stalemate has allowed the state pension contribution, now almost one-fifth of the state budget, to continue to crowd out spending on education, health care and social services. Scarce state resources prevent health care and service providers from being paid on time, result in the elimination of effective government programs and, if nothing is done, will require more lay-offs of public sector workers.
While SB 1 will alleviate some of these budget pressures, it does not – in my opinion – meet the requirements of the state constitution. I believe sending a plan to the courts is the necessary next step. It is my hope that, once the new law is ruled unconstitutional, my colleagues and I will be able to return to the drawing board and agree on a negotiated, fair solution that does not unilaterally diminish benefits. Approving the conference committee plan will set this process in motion after more than a year of inertia benefitting no one.
Public sector workers and retirees faithfully contributed toward their retirements, year after year. The nearly $100 billion unfunded liability resulted from two main causes: the state’s failure to make its own legally required annual pension payment and sluggish investment returns during the recession. Increases in the value of benefits were not a significant factor in the development of a pension crisis. It would be wrong to force public workers and retirees to bear the full burden of decades of mismanagement and poor decisions that were no fault of their own, and so I continue to support fair solutions, such as a progressive income tax and closing corporate tax loopholes, that will restore the state to fiscal health through shared sacrifice, not scapegoating those in the public sector.
The conference committee’s compromise plan is outlined herePlease note that it does NOTaffect CPS teachers, Chicago fire fighters or any other members of a City of Chicago or Cook County retirement fund. The changes apply only to state employees, teachers outside of Chicago, university employees and members of the General Assembly.
One advantage of the compromise is that it does take steps to protect retirees, those close to retirement, workers who have spent many years in the service of the state and low-wage workers. The COLA changes will have a more significant impact on retirees with larger pensions, and older workers will not see an increase in the retirement age. The law will also decrease the employee contribution required of Tier 1 active workers.
I know you will have many questions in the coming days about how this legislation may affect you or a family member. This fact sheet explains the major features of the plan, including how to calculate your COLA based on your pension and years of service.
Iris Martinez
Senator Iris Y. Martinez
20th District – Illinois

22 thoughts on “Can somebody please explain Senator Iris Martinez to me. She is my State Senator.

  1. Now it begins. They are already trying to spin their votes. In a year she’ll say she was flat against it. We need to have long memories on this one.

    1. All we have to remember, Norm, is the names of each & every legislator who voted yes.
      Even though Sen. Martinez’ explanation is the most ridiculous I’ve heard (qualifying that with the word YET–I’m sure there are many more lame-brained explanations to come), their reasons matter not, just their vote–yes.
      And those of us who read Fred won’t have to remember–he will put their names up each & every Tuesday, so long as he blogs.

      If you’d prefer, print his list, and I suggest you post it to your dart board.

  2. Actually, in a weird way, her position makes some sense. If you assume the courts will find the bill unconstitutional, then the legislators can say to the big money interests that have been screaming for “reform”, that hey, we tried it your way. But as we thought, it won’t work because it’s unconstitutional. Now we are going to have to look at this problem from the revenue angle. (But of course that’s gambling on the courts following the law.)

  3. Yes she just wants to have it both ways.
    If she voted for something that she thought was unconstitutional, isn’t she violating her oath of office, and should be removed from that office? I have no patience for her type of logic. Do what is right!
    Does anyone know why Renee Kosel was an “excused”? Not that I would expect her to vote against this “reform” unless she and her ALEC buddies thought that it wasn’t enough.
    Finally do we have any details about Quinn getting his backpay (and interest?). Now that he has fulfilled his purpose on earth, I would like to tell him where he can go. He may get his back pay, but we better not give him one penny for his reelection.

    Fred, thanks for helping all of us stay informed.

  4. Don’t elected officials take an oath swearing to uphold the state constitution? It seems to me voting for a law that you believe is in violation of the constitution ought to be an impeachable offense.

  5. Those who have followed Iris Martinez closely in Chicago are not surprised by this. She has been against charter schools (when pressed by CTU), although she was for them enough to give away a new public schools (now “Aspira Haugan”) to the Aspira group.

    Oh, and she was “against” school closings last year. So “against” them that she served on the phony panel established by Barbara Byrd Bennett that did the hearings where, between January and March, 30,000 people spoke agains the closings. So when the Board voted on May 22 to close 49 schools, she was forgainst the whole thing. By keeping her mouth shut.

    Her voting record coupled with her words to constituents who ask is an unparalleled record of double talk, even for a Chicago politician.

  6. Since the legislative pensios are not included in the recent pension theft, then maybe those who voted for it can volunteer to donate the same portion of their pensions they are stealing from retirees.

  7. Democrats hearing footsteps…. I guess it takes a thundering herd of buffaloes for them to hear…… Don’t worry. She and many of her colleagues will be history next November.

  8. At least you got an email from Ms. Martinez! I have not, even though I have called her office repeatedly and sent her a few emails. It is interesting to note that she voted no last May while Berrios voted yes. (even though Berrios looked me in the eye and said she would never vote on a bill that would diminish pension benefits; citing her experience of being a member of a family with many education workers) This time, Martinez voted yes and Berrios voted no. Could it be that Madigan told the two to flip their votes because Berrios is up for reelection (and almost lost last time) and Martinez has time to “recover” from her no vote? Just a thought.

  9. I am getting back emails like this one from some of the legislators I contacted before the pension “reform” vote.

    I am aghast that she can say that this is “fair” and a “good compromise,” and provides “much-needed certainty…most importantly for retirees”

    Do I write back to them again now that they have voted?

    Below is my correspondence with Stephanie Kifowit:

    Dear Ms. Kifowit,

    Perhaps you can afford to decline your pension. I cannot afford to lose the pension that I paid into faithfully, counting on it to be there when I retired.

    I do not trust the legislators to comply with the required contributions. Contributions were always required, but were not made. Legislators may find a way to get around these contribution just as they are trying to find a way to get around payment of the Constitutionally guaranteed contractual obligation under which I have worked.

    Contributing 1% less during my remaining few years of work is not very meaningful. I have already made larger contributions all these years.

    The reductions in COLA means that if I live long enough, I will get poorer and poorer and less secure as the years go by.

    The opportunity to join a defined contribution plan means the opportunity to lose my retirement savings completely, as recent economic history shows.

    Cutting healthcare payments after working teachers have been making extra contributions beyond their original contributions to help fund healthcare for retired teachers is unbelievable.

    The entire proposal is immoral, unfair, and unconstitutional.

    Diana Rogers Sent from my iPad

    On Dec 2, 2013, at 3:54 PM, Representative Kifowit wrote:

    [image: Kifowit *STATE REPRESENTATIVE 84th DISTRICT* 1677 Montgomery Road, Suite 116, Aurora, IL 60504 (630) 585-1308

    Thank you for taking the time to email me about this important issue. Your view is appreciated in this very pressing issue. The General Assembly is scheduled to be in session on Tuesday, December 3. As your neighbor and representative, I am faced with an important decision that is crucial to the future of our state. The need for reasonable *Pension Reform* has been a common topic of conversation around the district. It is not an easy conversation but*real, meaningful reform must happen for Illinois to chart a new course towards prosperity*. The path we are now on is plainly unacceptable and the state pension plans are in dire financial circumstances.

    When I first began my service as a legislator in the Illinois General Assembly, I declined the legislative pension offered to me. I did so for several reasons including my belief that new leadership was necessary; leadership unconnected to the very pension systems requiring reform. Since that day, 22 of my colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly have joined me in leading by example.

    I was given the below points on the upcoming Pension Reform bill. I encourage you to read through the points and let me know your thoughts. As I have said in the past, no one group is going to be happy with the outcome but we must take solid affirmative steps towards fixing these systems and getting our state back on track.

    Yours truly,

    Stephanie Kifowit *PENSION REFORM PROPOSAL* *Details as of 11/29/13*

    *Funding schedule and method for certifying contributions:* Establishes an actuarially sound funding schedule to achieve 100% funding no later than the end of FY 2044. Contributions will be certified using the entry age normal actuarial cost method (EAN), which averages costs evenly over the pensioners employment and results in level contributions.

    *Supplemental contributions:* The State will contribute (i) $364 million in FY 2019, (ii) $1 billion annually thereafter through 2045 or until the system reaches 100% funding, and (iii) 10% of the annual savings resulting from pension reform beginning in FY 2016 until the system reaches 100% funding. These contributions will be pure add on, which meansState contributions in any year will not be reduced by these amounts.

    *Funding guarantee*: If the State fails to make a pension payment or a supplemental contribution, a retirement system may file an action in the Illinois Supreme Court to compel the State to make the required pension payment and/or supplemental contribution set by law each year.

    *Employee contribution:* Employees will contribute 1% less of their salary toward their pension.

    *Annual annuity adjustment (COLAs):* Future COLAs will be based on a retirees years of service and the full CPI. The annual increase will be equal to 3% of years of service multiplied by $1,000 ($800 for those coordinated with social security). The $1000/$800 will be adjusted each year by the CPI for everyone (retirees and current employees). Those with an annuity that is less than their years of service multiplied by $1000/$800, or whatever the amount is at the time of retirement, will receive a COLA equal to 3% compounded each year until their annuity reaches that amount.

    Additionally, current employees will miss annual adjustments depending on age: employees 50 or over miss 1 adjustment (year 2); 49-47 miss 3 adjustments (years 2, 4, and 6); 46-44 miss 4 adjustments (years 2, 4, 6, and 8); 43 and under miss 5 adjustments (years 2, 4, 6, 8, 10).

    *Pensionable salary cap:* Applies the Tier II salary cap ($109,971 for 2013), which is annually adjusted by the lesser of 3% or of the annual CPI-U. Salaries that currently exceed the cap or that will exceed the cap based on raises in a collective bargaining agreement would be grandfathered in.

    *Retirement age:* For those 45 years of age or under, the retirement age will be increased on a graduated scale. For each year a member is under 46, the retirement age will be increased by 4 months (up to 5 years at age 31).

    *Effective rate of interest (ERI):* For all purposes, the ERI for SURS and the rate of regular interest for TRS will be the interest rate paid by 30-year U.S. Treasury bonds plus 75 basis points.

    *GARS Tier 2 fix:* Brings GARS Tier 2 salary cap and annual adjustment in line with other Tier 2 benefits.

    *Pension abuses:* Prohibits future members of non-governmental organizations from participating in IMRF, SURS, and TRS. Prohibits new hires from using sick or vacation time toward pensionable salary or years of service (applies to SERS, SURS, TRS, IMRF, Cook County, and Chicago Teachers).

    *Defined contribution plan:* Beginning July 1, 2015, up to 5% of Tier 1 active membershave the option of joining a defined contribution plan. The plan must be revenue neutral and employee contributions will be equal to those for the defined benefit plan. If a member chooses to opt into the defined contribution plan, benefits previously accrued in the defined benefit plan will be frozen.

    *Collective bargaining:* All pension matters, except pension pickups, are removed from collective bargaining.

    *Healthcare payments:* Prohibits the State pension systems from using pension funds to pay healthcare costs.

    *Representative Stephanie Kifowit* IL House District 84

    District office: 1677 Montgomery Road, Suite 116, Aurora IL 60504 District office phone: (630) 585-1308

    Springfield office: 200-3S Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706 Springfield office phone:(217) 782-8028

    —————————— *From:* Diana Rogers *To:* “” *Sent:* Sunday, December 1, 2013 8:12 PM *Subject:* No Pension Reform

    “The significant issue of pension reform is its attack on public employees rights to constitutionally-guaranteed, earned compensation and the legislators obligation to safeguard those promises. An unconscionable constitutional challenge of those rights and earned benefits generates a serious threat to their secure sense of worth as citizens and creates the unfair possibility for an economic disadvantage for a particular group of people and their families. This can never be legally or morally justified.”

    Sincerely, Diana Rogers

    Sent from my iPad

  10. Received this email today?

    Wondering how to respond.

    Sent from my iPad

    Begin forwarded message:

    > From: Matt Murphy > Date: January 6, 2014, 10:56:44 AM CST > To: Diana Rogers > Subject: Re: Pensions > > Dear Ms. Rogers, > > Thank you for writing about your position on the pension legislation. This issue has been the most difficult I have faced in my time in the Senate. On the one hand, you and your colleagues have let me know how important your pension benefits are to you. Unfortunately, on the other hand, due to past mistakes by many in Springfield, the pension funds only have 40% of the money needed to keep the current commitment to you. Collectively, these pension funds are short approximately $100 billion, the equivalent of about three years of total state spending. The situation has become so dire that in recent years TRS had to use fund assets to pay benefits because the investment returns did not produce enough money to cover those benefits. > > To try to dig out of this huge hole, Illinois raised taxes 67% and has been spending almost 25% of its record-high budget on pension payments. Most states spend between 5% and 10%. Please understand that I am acutely aware of the fact that this problem was created by officials in Springfield. However, I have never voted for a budget that shorted your pension. I have never voted to borrow to make pension payments. I never voted for the insider deals that lead others to denigrate pensions generally. In fact, when given the chance, I voted to fully fund your pension, with cash, not borrowing. > > Although my votes as your Senator did not create this problem, I simply could not ignore the seriousness of it, or the threat it poses to your retirement and our state. I agreed to serve on the pensions conference committee with the goal of doing enough to meaningfully address this pension problem without cutting unnecessarily into the benefits you were expecting. The result is a law that I am certain is not perfect, but does meaningfully address the problem. > > As part of the reforms, the current pension benefits to retirees will not be reduced. A cost-of-living-adjustment will still be made allowing retirement benefits to grow, although more slowly. As we move forward, the retirement systems will better understand the benefit changes and the impact on individuals. > > I also know that many of your colleagues feel that you are being asked to bear the entire weight of this problem through reductions in your benefits. Please know the legislation also requires increased state payments, which are provided by taxpayers, into the pension funds to help pay down the debt sooner. These payments are the equivalent of extra payments to pay down your home mortgage more quickly. The long term savings from these extra payments by taxpayers amount to tens of billions of dollars in reduced pension liabilities and fund stabilization. > > As you may know, many people question whether we went far enough in reducing benefits to solve the problem. I have been chastised by some for not cutting benefits more deeply. In short, I feel that the goal I had when I joined the conference committee has largely been met. The fact that we have some people saying we went too far and others saying we did not go far enough supports that conclusion. > > I have said several times on the Senate floor that I deeply regret that it has become necessary to alter benefits for current employees and retirees. The simple truth as I see it, though, is that I would be lying to you if I said you can be confident in your pension being there for you if we do nothing. I opposed SB2404 because I do not feel it would have stabilized the systems. I supported SB1 because I am more confident that it will. I sincerely hope that this legislation is successful at eliminating the pension deficit and making the systems sustainable. I know how stressful this process has been for those with pensions. I hope what has been done will allow us to never have to go through it again. > > Very truly yours, > > Senator Matt Murphy > > >

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