On its website, the IRTA states, “As the voice of Illinois’s retired educators, the Illinois Retired Teachers Association (IRTA) defends pension and healthcare protection via its lobbying efforts advocates for retirees…”
For years the IRTA legislative and lobbying effort’s number one priority was to ensure that the TRS pension appropriation met the state “ramp plan” minimum, even though that amount leads to exponentially increasing funding requirements.
When the legislature passed SB1 (2013) which required TRS annuitant to choose between their COLA and subsidized health care, IRTA legal action resulted in the Illinois Supreme Court (2015) reaffirming TRS guaranteed pension benefits, further stating that it is the State’s responsibility to provide the revenue to fund its responsibilities.
In October 2019, I attended my 9th consecutive IRTA biannual convention. I went there wanting to know why the IRTA had in all of its recent publications not endorsed or even mentioned the Fair Tax.
I made it a point to raise that question with the legislative leader, lobbyist, a TRS annuitant trustee and lastly the incoming president. I heard the following:
• It does not directly affect our members
• It would be disingenuous since we are asking others to pay, while our retirement income is exempt
• They need to go at a slower pace
• They set the cutoffs high ($250K), but we know how that goes as they need more money
Open the constitution, what will be changed next, taxing our pension?
After being told the above, he told me, “IRTA members should make their own informed decision.”
My attempt to rebut their positions fell upon deaf ears. Incidentally at that same convention, Bob Lyons, past TRS annuitant trustees stated unequivocally his support for the Fair Tax.
In February 19, 2020, Governor Pritzker gave his budget address. In it Governor Pritzker stated, “We must keep our promise to the retirees who earned their pension benefits and forge a realistic path forward to meet those obligations.”
He went on further to state “That’s why my budget delivers on our full pension payment and then some, with $100 million from the proceeds of the graduated income tax dedicated to paying down our pension debt more quickly. We should double that number in subsequent years.”
That was 6 months ago. ith the pandemic, all bets are probably off.
I personally find it incomprehensible for the IRTA, who in my mind serves as our fiduciary, to not only remain silent, but to take the positions detailed above, especially given the Governor’s budget address. Certainly, when the Fair Tax fails, and IRTA was silent and yet expects the TRS full pension appropriation, who will be sounding disingenuous then?
Lastly, our TRS pension security is not the only reason for supporting the Fair Tax. The devastation of state agencies by the prior governor’s administration and the need to reasonably fund and/or reorganized them going forward is of major importance.
Specially funding for our schools (pre-k to universities), IL EPA (10-yr funding cuts: 38%), IL DNR (billion is deferred maintenance), IDPH (responsible for nursing home inspections where 52% of our Covid-related deaths occurred, 40% nationally), IL DCFS (understaffed and needing retraining); the list goes on-and-on. Add to that months of state payment backlogs, and certainly the State requires more revenue to fund its responsibilities.
With 32 States and the Federal Government utilizing a graduated income tax, the data (CTBA) does not suggest any significant relocation of those financially affected. Failing to pass the Fair Tax Amendment makes it more likely that all of us will see increased: State Income Tax, Real Estate Tax (caused by underfunded schools, reduction in municipal income tax reimbursement etc.), State tax on pension benefits and an assortment of other taxes.
I agree with much of what Fred has stated, and don’t feel disingenuous asking those who have benefited most from what Illinois has to offer to kick-in a little more.
Tom White, TRS Annuitant