Illinois’ Democratic Party choices to replace Rauner are weak on the pension issue.


Last week I posted about former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner stepping down as head of the Civic Committee, a major Chicago corporate voice for pension theft.

When it comes to politics the Commercial Club and its affiliated Civic Committee are non-partisan. Republican? Democrat? No matter as long as they serve corporate interests. Fahner will be replaced as head of the Civic Committee by former Obama lawyer Kelly Walsh. Walsh worked in the Obama Commerce Department with Obama’s Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker.

Speaking of Penny Pritzker, another Pritzker is planning on running to replace Governor Rauner.

J.B. Pritzker is considered a Democratic liberal by most observers. But in 2011, he donated big-time to a front group, We Mean Business PAC, established by Ty Fahner and the Civic Committee, to push pension theft.

In fact, few in the Democratic field to replace Rauner have a good history when it comes to defending the contractual and constitutional obligations to state workers’ pensions.

Christopher Kennedy has been near silent on this as far as I can tell, although what exactly has he taken a position on other than that he is a billionaire not named Rauner?

Another announced Democrat for Governor is Alderman Ameya Pawar. In a 2015 Tribune candidate questionnaire, he responded to a pension question.

Here are specific ideas: -The State of Illinois should enact a progressive income tax and allocate additional revenue for pension payments through the Local Government Distributive Fund. The additional funds should be allocated to dedicated accounts to be used for pension payments. -Increase employee contributions -Eliminate compounded COLAs for applicable pension funds -Identify reforms to healthcare plans – focus on wellness for current employees and retirees.

Of course, the Illinois Supreme Court may not have issued its decision that pension benefits are covered by the pension protection clause of the state constitution before the aldermanic candidate started talking about eliminating or reducing COLAs and healthcare in 2015.

I look forward to an updated view from the Alderman.

Just as I look forward to a statement from Pritzker like the one I got when I asked State Senator Dan Biss, another potential Democratic candidate for governor, for an update on his pension position:

Thanks Fred. I’m not going to vote for anything I don’t think would be upheld by the courts.

That’s not exactly a solution, but it is a change from Biss’ earlier stand.

Biss, you may recall, was a leader in pushing for pension theft, along with State Representative Elaine Nekrtiz,  prior to the court ruling. So, things change and people change and politicians change all the time.

Crain’s Greg Hinz reported the Pritzker donations and wrote this:

One union leader I spoke with, who asked not to be named, said he doubted the donations would be a major factor when it makes an endorsement. Pritzker’s backing for a $15 minimum wage “is a much bigger deal for us,” that source said.

A spokesman for AFSCME, state government’s largest labor union, said only that its decision will be based on “many factors” and that those factors will be considered “when the time comes.”

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, most of whose members are covered by a state-run pension plan, said it’s “too soon” to say. “We have a robust endorsement process, where elected local leaders assess candidates’ positions on a variety of issues. That process hasn’t started yet, so it would be premature to say what may or may not impact our members’ support.”

But I would remind Greg Hinz and the state union leadership that Democrat Pat Quinn lost to Bruce Rauner by 70,000 votes. A large number of those votes were current and future state retirees who voted Democratic but left the governor’s line blank because Quinn betrayed us on pensions. Even though the state’s public employee unions spent millions to try to get Quinn re-elected.

Support for a minimum wage is important. Rauner is a terrible governor. But I would not be too quick in deciding what are the bigger deals to retirees.

And any Democrat who is running for governor must be unequivocal in their opposition to pension theft.

Download the podcast. Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #5 with Karen Lewis.

3 Replies to “Illinois’ Democratic Party choices to replace Rauner are weak on the pension issue.”

  1. One absolute…to be a politician you must be a hypocrite…saying whatever is suitable…as the “wind blows” hither and thither. As has been pointed out in the time of trump…truth and honesty have no value in the political quagmire! We lament Quinn, but the fellow was a real political dunderhead…better a dunderhead Dem than a louse republican!

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