What I learned from legislators at my IRTA luncheon.

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Chicago’s north suburban legislative Democrats at our IRTA lunch.

My Illinois Retired Teachers Association chapter usually has a lunch with legislators and candidates in an election year.

So this was different.

Yesterday six General Assembly members, all Democrats, from this solidly blue north Chicago suburban area showed up to share their views of the past legislative session.

They were nearly giddy.

With large Democratic majorities in both chambers and JB Pritzker replacing Republican Bruce Rauner in the Governor’s office, they all said it was a new day.

Still, some of us retired public employees in the audience continue to have concerns.

After all, legislative Democrats are not immune to cutting pension benefits, if past practice is any predictor of future behavior.

My friend Conrad Floeter asked what if the vote on a constitutional amendment allowing for a progressive income tax fails to receive the super majority vote in 2020?

There seems to be no plan B.

What about the proposal to tax retirement savings?

It seems it is a non-starter.

The thing about taxing retirement income is that this isn’t just aimed at public employees. It would be everybody’s retirement. Those rich guys too. And there are retired voters in every legislative district that would not vote kindly on this issue.

I asked about a constitutional change to the pension protection clause.

State Representative Robyn Gabel was spot on when she bluntly said that a change to the language that says public employees enrolled in a pension plan cannot have their benefits diminished or impaired would change nothing. Current members of the state pension systems would continue to receive their benefits. What is needed is additional revenue and a change to the ramp.

She said that, not me.

I asked about Tier II state employees. Their plan is worth less than Confederate dollars and their payments are the only thing paying down the state’s pension liability.

And I asked about Tier III attempts to move the system to a defined contribution system.

There was general silence on those issues.

2 thoughts on “What I learned from legislators at my IRTA luncheon.

  1. For most teachers, teaching is a profession, not a hobby. I find the legislators actions to raise teachers minimum pay “to solve the teacher shortage” pathetic. Some significant causes of the teacher shortage in Illinois were caused by the actions of Illinois legislators themselves. SB7 took away job security from long term teachers. In many districts, these teachers were thrown under the bus because they were at the top of the pay scale. No legitimate reasons existed, but that was no problem for the school district administrators. They could make up totally subjective false evaluations to get rid of higher paid teachers with no due process at all. This was not lost on the remaining teachers, who see this as one more reason not to remain a teacher in Illinois. Teachers are college graduates who can do well in other lines of work, and young beginning teachers frequently find teaching positions in other states more attractive. Tier 2 is a very bad deal for any teacher or other public employee who is it.
    Tier 2 is a “historic solution to our pension problems” proclaimed both Republican and Democratic legislators and a Democratic Governor Quinn. Tier 2 is a negative pension, teachers under tier 2 will pay in more dollars then they will receive in retirement, and is a worse deal then social security. Also, any social security benefits they might earn from outside employment will be drastically reduced because of their public pension. Once prospective teachers realize this, is it any wonder they leave or not take a position in Illinois at all? The minimum teachers pay raise is like the legislators telling new teachers “sorry we burned down your house, but we are giving you a nice tent to live in in retirement”.
    Teachers need to make a living and a decent retirement. The legislators wondering why there is a teacher shortage in Illinois need to look in a mirror.

  2. Tier 2 will eventually cost Illinois a lot more money because it will fail the Safe Harbor test. Shame on Illinois pols for what they’ve done to the teaching profession since Josh Edelman and “Stand for Children” were given a seat at the big table with Mike Madigan.
    You can hear him bragging about it here: kudos to Jennifer Marshall for providing this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kog8g9sTDSo:

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