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.