The cap on Illinois teacher’s salaries. Don Harmon and the Illinois General Assembly act like Janus.

Screen Shot 2018-06-10 at 9.21.25 AM
Oak Park Democratic Party Illinois State Senator Don Harmon and JB Pritzker.

While patting themselves on the back for passing a year’s state budget for the first time in a while, Democrats and Republicans in Illinois included a 3% cap on teacher raises that can be applied to our pensions

A few years ago they followed the direction of their leader, Michael Madigan, and enacted a 6% cap. By doing that they managed to be both punitive to teachers and do absolutely nothing to address the $130 billion dollar pension liability. 

If a 6% cap can be both punitive and do nothing to the pension liability, imagine what a 3% cap can do and not do at the same time.

In a previous post I speculated that the General Assembly’s bi-partisan leadership snuck the 3% cap into the budget bill when nobody was looking.  Perhaps the rank-and-file members of the GA didn’t know about it or hadn’t had time to read the part of the bill that put a cap on teacher salaries.

It appears I was wrong. The members of the General Assembly in both parties appear to have known exactly what they were doing.

As a Springfield observer wrote me, “The limiting raises to 3 percent, was a
significant part of multipart deal that far more than just the leaders
signed off on. It was an ingredient baked into the cake that you will find
cannot easily be removed.”

Take State Senator Don Harmon, the liberal Democrat from liberal Oak Park and the Democratic Party’s Assistant Majority Leader.

My blogging co-hort John Dillon gets it exactly right when he posts today.

I talked with Sen. Harmon of Oak Park to ask if he even felt a little unsettled about passing a budget in which a 3% limit was included in local districts’ bargaining before the district itself was faced with paying the pension amount to the annuitant for life.

The answer was NO.

In fact, Sen. Harmon’s defense was that some years ago local districts were spiking, so the General Assembly put in a 6% limit which would be a cap and the locals would have to pay anything above 6%.  “Still,”he said, “ there’s been a lot of fudging and manipulation, but we (GA) noticed that the 6% really worked well in keeping people from spiking; thus, why not 3%?

That should work as well if not better than the 6%.”

When I asked about why the arbitrary assignment of 3%, the multi-year contracts that might add up to beyond 3%, the possibility of an inflationary economy, the intrusion into collective bargaining by the General Assembly – he dismissed that as a necessary means to limit the costs of pension abuses.

When I reminded him that the pension abuses were the result of the State’s not paying the required payments so that we are now looking at an unfunded liability of $150 billion for which we all pay an 8% interest, I was dismissed from the discussion.

You sit down with the devil (Rauner), my friends, and you do his work.

Before I was dropped from the echoing conversation, I told Senator Don Harmon that he and the GA were responsible for completing and creating a legacy for the hopefully one-time Governor.

Dillon suggests the Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly who decry the threat of Janus when they talk to teachers are decrying crocodile tears.

Don Harmon and the GA are Janus.

The Illinois teacher salary cap is really, really bad news.

ct-1528336599-1dkapo02h8-snap-image
Tim Mapes.

Tim Mapes was given his walking papers minutes after Sherri Garret busted him for sexual harassment. House Speaker Michael Madigan’s chief of staff is eligible to collect a pension of more than $135,000 per year. 

The amount of Mapes’ pension is the result of about 40 unelected years in state government, and he’ll be eligible for annual pension increases of 3 percent.

Mapes is 63.

Yesterday Garret said that Mapes engaged in sexual harassment over years and fostered “a culture of sexism, harassment and bullying that creates an extremely difficult working environment.”

Mapes is legally entitled to his pension. I have no problem with that.

The irony is that his boss, Michael Madigan, just worked to pass a budget that included a major hit on the pensions of career teachers who are retiring.

I’m not talking about the pension buyout. That is baloney. No teacher who has a brain in their head would take that deal unless they had a few weeks left to live or owed a bookie a bunch of Franklins and needed quick cash.

But the legislature also passed as part of their pension action a 3% cap on teachers who will retire after their current contract expires.

This means that no teacher can receive a cost of living increase of more than 3% without their district paying a huge penalty.

What’s so bad about a 3% cost of living raise?

There are some who argue that any raise for teachers is a bad idea. 

But because teaching is a career that depends on us staying in the classroom, younger teachers are placed on a salary schedule that rewards them for doing that. There is no such thing as a promotion for teachers unless it is to become an administrator.  

Oh, man! Here is where I get weedy.

Teachers receive an increase for each year of service (a step increase) plus a cost of living increase that is collectively bargained.  Senior teachers only receive the cost of living increase.  No step increase.

If a teacher takes on extra duty work in their final four years and it is applied to their pension calculation or takes a college class that adds to their income, it is not difficult to earn more than the new cap allows.

I can see a scenario where in the face of inflation and a consumer price index that rises above 3%, no board will bargain a raise that exceeds 3%. No matter what. No matter to who.

It will be a constraint on collective bargaining, advantaging the board, hurting all teachers. But especially veteran teachers.

For a career teacher this is an F You for committing to a lifetime of service to educating young people.

It also undermines a fundamental principle of collective bargaining, which is a process that involves the union representatives of the employees and management. 

Not the legislature.

Bargaining with the legislature is what led to strikes in the red states where there is no local collective bargaining.

If the point was to save the state money, it fails on that point as well.  Forbes estimates the cap will save the state only $22 million. 

Targeting veteran teachers like this is really despicable.

I am reminded of a teacher I knew back when I was union president. Our collective bargaining agreement required a performance review and a rating every two years.

This lady had taught for 34 years, had always received excellent performance reviews and was in her very last year of teaching.

If evaluation is for the purpose of improvement, it is hard to see how being evaluated months before you retire has much purpose.

The evaluator was her principal who was new at the job and was clearly trying to impress the higher ups. There was pressure from the central office about too many teachers getting good reviews. So he ranked her as satisfactory rather than excellent.

Her final year.

She was devastated. A knife in the back after a career of service.

That’s what a cap on our final salary is.

A knife in the back after a career of service.

Kristen “Hurricane” McQueary of the Trib gets so much wrong on pensions.

kristen-mcqueary

When the Trib operations moved out of the Tribune Tower on north Michigan Avenue the other day they missed an opportunity to leave one of their editorial board members behind.

That would be Kristen McQueary.

You remember Kristen. Her most famous editorial was the one where she wished for a Hurricane Katrina to destroy Chicago public schools.

“I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury,” wrote McQueary in her column; “a dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops.”

Even by the Chicago Tribune’s usual anti-union, anti-labor, anti-pension standards, McQueary was a bit harsh.

You might say, ghoulish.

But it appears McQueary has a long-term lease with the Trib.

Monday she wrote an op-ed column on the budget settlement in Springfield. It was a scolding for failing to address the pension issue.

Of course, the Illinois legislature did address the pension issue. They passed an unconstitutional buyout option. It is unconstitutional because it is offers a diminishment of benefits which the courts have already ruled out of order.

Also. Any teacher who would take such a buyout is crazy. We are not crazy. So it will not save the state what they are claiming.

They also passed a 3% cap on pensionable earnings. The cap is an intrusion by the state on the collective bargaining rights of school boards and unions who are bargaining salary, as well as making a target of retiring career teachers.

I’ll have more to say about the 3% pension cap some other time.

Back to McQueary’s Monday column.

The legislature could have immediately sent a “consideration” model, perhaps trading one benefit for a lesser one, back to the court. Some constitutional experts say it might have been upheld. Lawmakers also could have created a third pension tier with less costly benefits for incoming workers. Or they could have transitioned new workers to 401(k)-style plans.

…….

Rauner and legislative leaders could have launched a campaign to change the strict pension clause in the Illinois Constitution, as Arizona did. That state’s constitution contained similar language to Illinois’ that pensions could not be “diminished or impaired.” Arizona’s high court also had struck down attempts to curb pension costs by altering benefits.

I don’t know who the “some constitutional experts” are that McQueary is talking about. Maybe those at the right-wing Illinois Policy Institute. But the consideration model that McQueary mentions is a term dealing with contract language. “Consideration” is a bargained exchanged where the value of the exchange must be of equal or greater value and agreed to by both parties.

Enforcing a lesser benefit on employees is not consideration and the courts would agree.

McQueary must have been sleeping during an editorial board meeting when the news came in that the legislature already passed a Tier III to the Teacher Retirement System this year with a 401(k) option.

And lastly, about that constitutional change to the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.

Current members of the Teacher Retirement System have a contractual and constitutional right to the pensions they earned.

They can change the rules going forward. They already have several times. But the bill of $130 billion and counting – if nothing is done to pay it –  is not going away.

Not even by a hurricane.

 

The latest state budget includes a pension buyout offer. Not a solution.

The Illinois Senate passed what it says is a balanced budget yesterday.

The Illinois House is poised to do the same today.

The Governor says he will sign it.

Everyone down in Springfield is patting each other on the back for their hard work. Passing on time is a relatively new thing for them.

In recent years they have had a difficult time passing a budget at all.

Things move slowly in Springpatch.

It took them 37 years after the deadline to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

Like nearly all of the Illinois legislators who did or will vote on it,  I have not read the budget bill.

The Trib does report some modest increases in education spending.

We will see.

Reported the Chicago Tribune:

But unlike in past years when Republicans and Democrats railed against each other for using gimmicks to make budgets appear balanced, the spirit of compromise this year allowed lawmakers to see past the plan’s potential shortcomings.

Instead, they congratulated themselves for what Sen. Chapin Rose, a Republican from Mahomet, described as a process that involved “far less partisanship and rancor than I’ve seen in a long time in this building.”

What shortcomings?

The budget is balanced? Because of our regressive flat income tax, we cannot adequately fund basic services without going into debt. As state governments go, we are among the lowest taxing and lowest spending states in the country.

However, I did read what the Chicago Tribune is reporting about the pension portion of the bill.

Most of the savings would come from voluntary buyout programs for people eligible for state pensions. Former public workers who are vested in the pension system would have the option to completely cash out their pensions at 60 percent of the value, which they could then invest on their own. And employees who are entitled to the state’s most generous benefits packages, which includes a 3 percent compounding cost-of-living adjustment in retirement, would have the option to cash that out for 60 percent of the value and continue with a simple cost-of-living adjustment in their retirement years.

The plan also reduces the amount of end-of-career raises that the state will count toward the portion of pensions it pays from 6 percent to 3 percent. School districts can still award raises above 3 percent, but will have to pay for the resulting pension costs on their own.

This pension offer is the non-solution to the pension debt and liability that State Senate President John Cullerton has been a peddling for years.

Right off the bat: The proposal is unconstitutional. They claim there are savings. “Savings” have to come from somewhere. They can claim savings only if there is a reduction in the pension benefit.

The Illinois Supreme Court has already said a reduction in the pension benefit violates the state’s constitution.

Secondly, most of us who are retired are not stupid.

If the buyout is a reduction in our benefit, why would we take it?

I suppose if I found out that I had a short time left, or I had a major gambling debt and some wise guy had put out a contract on me, I might cash out.

Otherwise I’m sticking with with my pension as it is. And so it every other retiree I know.

They are claiming something like $5 billion in savings from this idea.

Not a chance.

But even if they are right, the current liability is $130 billion.

I know it is crazy to call $5 billion chump change. But compared to the debt that these legislators have created by their decades of shorting the system, that is exactly what it is.

Plus, they just blew that number out of their butts.

 

 

 

Focus on a fair income tax. The pension debt must be paid one way or the other.

20150913-CanYouHearMeNow-GalleryImage

I received an email yesterday from my friend Bob Lyons. Bob recently retired from his seat on the Teacher Retirement System’s board of trustees. He was elected to the board by retirees like me.

Bob likes to remind me that he is a Republican.

“The state of Illinois keeps hoping to come up with a way to reduce what they have to pay for our pensions.  And of course they have forgotten that it is their fault!  Here is what we may see happen next, a move to present a constitutional amendment to the people of Illinois that would remove the “pension protection”clause” from the constitution.  When that bill is passed by the general assembly, what we will need to do is immediately sue and ask for it to be moved to Illinois Supreme Court where we can make the logical argument that is an obvious attempt to reduce our pensions so the act is unconstitutional.  As the Supreme Court has demonstrated, it will be found unconstitutional and the proposed amendment will never be submitted to the people.”

Bob attached a recent column by Greg Hinz in Chicago Crain’s.

I agreed with Bob’s analysis that any such attempt to remove the pension clause will be ruled unconstitutional as it impacts current members of the state pension system.

Of course, nothing in the state’s constitution prevents the legislature and the governor from changing the pension arrangement for future hires. They already have done that. That’s why we have tiers II and III.

So, all this talk about changing the constitutional protection of promised pensions is just so much delay and deflection.

It’s as if the problem is Michelle Wolf and not Donald Trump.

Taking an erasure to the pension protection clause will not erase the $130 billion pension liability that currently exists.

I agree with Glen Brown in his blog post this morning. He repeats (we all keep having to repeat ourselves) what he wrote back in 2012.

“According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA), pension reform should not be the focus or the conversation. The dialogue should be about tax reform, where fairness, long-term revenue stability and a graduated tax rate become the State of Illinois’ priorities and solutions for its budget problems.”

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall, Illinois Republicans and even some Democrats keep wanting to come back to changing the pension rules and contractual obligations. It is a scam.

The solution lies in changing the revenue system, creating a graduated progressive income tax as described in the recent report from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

CTBA Executive Director Ralph Martire was on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers this week. He admits than any fix to the pension problem will cause some pain. But it can be fixed by raising revenue and reamortizing the debt.

When JB Pritzker asks for the votes of public employees, particularly retirees,  then his support for specifics like those in the CTBA plan is a requirement.

 

 

 

The shorting of pension payments. It’s not just a revenue problem. It’s a poverty problem.

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 8.56.57 AM
Amanda Kass on Chicago Tonight.

Amanda Kass, Assistant Director, Center for Municipal Finance, has published a report that looks at the diversion of state money from municipal services to underfunded public pension municipal pensions.

A 2011 state law allows for underfunded local public pensions funds to make a request to the state Comptroller, Susan Mendoza, to garnish state funding that was to go to local governments in order to make their pension payments.

The first case where that has actually happened is Harvey. Harvey is a town south of Chicago that is among the poorest in the state and almost entirely African American.

Harvey already has one of the highest poverty rates and highest property tax rates in Illinois. There is no way it can afford to maintain public services and make their pension payments.

Harvey may be the first town that will face garnishment, but not the last. Kass reports:

Out of 632 police and fire funds, I identified 71 (or 11%) in which actual contributions were 50% or less than what the Department of Insurance said the total contributions should have been during that time. Those funds are located in 54 municipalities, the majority of which (49 funds) are in Cook County or DuPage County. Among the group of 71 funds, the average amount that was contributed between 2003 and 2010 was only about 39% of what DOI said should have been paid. And 24% of the funds received no money from their respective municipality at least once between 2003 and 2010. As a group, these 71 funds are also in worse financial shape than most police and fire pension funds. While the average funded ratio for all funds in 2016 was 60% the average for these 71 is just 47%.

Those of us who are pension activists have consistently argued that the problem with underfunded public pensions in Illinois is insufficient revenue.

But Harvey and other towns in Illinois with high poverty rates can’t solve this problem on their own.

As Amanda Kass points out, “This isn’t just a pension problem or a fiscal mismanagement problem. It’s a poverty problem.”

Kass adds, “Importantly, the new pension funding enforcement mechanism will not resolve any underlying structural issues that may have led to the pension underfunding in the first place.”

 

 

There are other union teachers in Kentucky who better represent the revolt.

By Dr. Randy Wieck holds degrees from Amherst College, The London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Paris, III, The Sorbonne. He has taught for 26 years, is currently a teacher at Manual High School, and is the author of Ignorance Abroad (Praeger).

Since fall, 2013 when we UNION members first went to our local, Jefferson County TA, and were dismissed, and then told by union counsel (Don Meade) to form our own organization, we UNION members (who then formed 501.c.3 TRELF, Teacher Retirement Legal Fund) – have been shouting from the rooftops that the teachers would lose their pension if nothing was done immediately. We have filed 3 lawsuits, and are preparing a fourth.

NOW, it appears, through the mechanism of “soft funding” the $43 Billion in accumulated debt in KY Teacher Retirement System is being transferred by the governor and legislature to strapped local school districts, which in some cases will not be able to meet the payments, resulting, finally, in long-term benefit cuts to teachers, and the end of the DB-type plan.

It is an interesting fact that our local Jefferson County KY union leadership has been in office since 2003 when it battled successfully to eliminate term limits. In this time, this same JCTA leadership also blocked – with Jefferson County Sheriffs – concerned teacher members’ attempt to enter a union meeting with legal counsel to explain our belief that we MUST engage the courts in this battle; the same JCTA leadership, CURIOUSLY, has also blocked transparency of pension investments, resulting in countless secret contracts worth billions$ being signed with private equity/alternative money managers (KKR, Blackstone, Chrysalis, Carlysle) who do NOT adhere to the CFA code of Ethical Conduct, and which charge $millions in secret fees. It seems (K)TRS is trying to big-bet its way out of $43 billion in debt. Who knows where all that secret money is flowing? Through a campaign of intimidation, some vocal teachers, I for one, have been harassed with “allegations” lodged with the KY Prof. Teaching Standards Board (quickly dismissed) – placing our teaching license in jeopardy. This was a ham-fisted attempt to silence us. Our KY union leadership has remained suspiciously passive and lethargic in this battle, and the same union leadership has presided over the LARGEST decline in a teacher pension (from 86% funding to 32%, according to Moodys) in US history. Is something rotten in the state of Kentucky?

SEE: TRELF on Facebook; www.kentuckyteacherretirement.weebly.com, @teachlegalfund on Twitter and http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article192373754.html

In Kentucky the state union has presided over the greatest slide in assets in a teacher pension in American history.

120617EGRandyWieck02TDE

By Dr. Randy Wieck holds degrees from Amherst College, The London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Paris, III, The Sorbonne. He has taught for 26 years, is currently a teacher at Manual High School, and is the author of Ignorance Abroad (Praeger).

Today, in 2018, 140,000 Kentucky public school teachers are wondering: what happened to our pension?

According to the National Rating Agency (Moody’s), at a 32% funded level, the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System (TRS) is the worst-funded teacher pension in the country.

The current leaders of the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA), the Kentucky Education Association (KEA), and the TRS – some in office since 2003 – have presided over the greatest slide in assets in a teacher pension in American history. The funded level of the teacher pension has fallen from an 86% funded level in 2003 to 32% today, with liabilities of around 30 billion dollars. Many financial experts now consider the TRS to be in a death spiral. What happened to our watchdogs? Weren’t the JCTA, KEA, and TRS supposed to watch over this key benefit and to protect it from harm?

Teachers are busy people; they rely on their watchdogs to keep watch. Few people know that teachers are not recipients of Social Security, as the teacher pension was originally intended to provide for teacher retirement. Now, it is anyone’s guess where the funds will come from to repair the financial damage that has been done to this retirement system.

Moreover, in recent years, the teacher pension system has been pouring funds into highly-secret, high-risk, high-fee alternative and private equity investments – an attempt to “big-bet” TRS back to solvency. We all know what happens to gamblers who play with scared money. When teachers demanded to know how their contributions were being invested, and filed a transparency lawsuit seeking this information in 2014, they were opposed by TRS management. In a surprising February 2016 action newsletter from JCTA, transparency was blocked by the teachers’ own union.

Additionally, the teacher watchdog association has resisted taking any effective measures (legal action, civil disobedience, or peaceful protests around the capitol) that might call the legislature’s hand and stop the signing of secret contracts, and the repeated underfunding of the pension that began in the early 2000s.

The financial damage done to this pension is an impairment of a contract, something specifically prohibited by the United States, and the Kentucky Constitution. Presumably, with transparency, details of financial transactions might become known that were never intended to see the light of day. Perhaps this explains the resistance to transparency. Strange as it may appear, there has been barely a peep of protest from the leaders of these three organizations.

Worried teachers were even told by JCTA legal counsel – that if they were so concerned about their retirement – to go form their own organization. This resulted in the founding of Teacher Retirement Legal Fund (TRELF, 501.c.3) in 2014. We, of TRELF, have been fighting a pitched battle, against powerful forces, to save our retirement – a retirement plan that we began paying into the day we started working as public school teachers.

We had no choice; it was a contractual requirement.

Finally, it now appears, from his address on January 16, 2018, that Governor Bevin is trying to cut his way to solvency by slashing 70 programs; to pit retirees against the rest of the state by eliminating these 70 programs (are they all without merit?); to shove the massive debt back to school districts, which he claims are sitting on some $960 million in “reserve” funds; and – perhaps he is correct here – trim the number of administrators in Jefferson County who earn over $100k per year (but even that amounts to only $60 million savings versus a $30 billion liability); and, to top it all off, to kill, once and for all, the defined benefit system through the 401K trojan horse plan.

Additionally, the debt figure Governor Bevin cited in his address was drawn up under outdated accounting standards no longer recognized by actuarial consensus: that TRS is funded at 56%; that teacher salary growth for legislative funding purposes will be 4%; and that the rate-of-return on investments will be 7.5% (more accurate standards, recognized by national ratings agencies, are known as GASB 67 and 68). These misleading figures were determined by the well-known economist, Rosie Scenario.

And so, teachers, who happen to be busy with teaching the future, are wondering the following: what happened to our watchdogs? What will we live on when we are too old to work in the classroom? The concerned teachers of TRELF will continue to wage a legal battle to secure the rescue of our earned retirement.

For more information, visit TRELF on Facebook; or visit http://www.kentuckyteacherretirement.weebly.com or follow us on Twitter @teachlegalfund

Who pays for our pensions and where does the money come from?

F193C70D-3F6C-4E89-BF0C-509541819450

By Bob Lyons. Bob is a retired public school teacher and recently retired as an elected member of the Teacher Retirement System board of trustees, representing retired members of the system.

I was recently asked “Who pays for our pensions, where does the money come from?”

I was going to answer with the numbers that I knew, but as they were from a couple of years ago, I instead asked Kathleen Farney, TRS’ research person. She did the calculation for the last twenty years, which shifted the numbers that I used to give by a few percent.  

First, over the last twenty years, the percentage from investment earned is 46%. From the contributions of active teachers it is 17%.  The money from school districts 2% and the state’s contribution is 35%. For most of those twenty years active teachers contributed 9.4% of their salary, but now it is reduced to 9.0% after the early retirement option ended.  Individual school districts contributed .58% of teachers’ salary and 10.1% for federally paid teachers.

The goal for the state’s contributions is the one established by the state back in 1995 and that was to contribute enough money over fifty years, so that in 2045 the five state pensions (TRS, SURS, SERS, GARS, and JRS) will be 90% funded in that far off year.  

Ideally, that would have called for fifty years of equal payments, but the subsequent annual payments would have been more expensive than the legislators were willing to pay, despite that being the less expensive option for the total fifty years.  They instead used a fifteen year ramp to gradually increase the payments and then they have balloon payments in each of the last five years from 2040 to 2045.  

They of course have played around with the schedule. We had a partial pension holiday in ’06 and ’07, and they reacted to the retirement funds lowering their expected rates of return by calling for five years to smooth the effect of each lowered percentage.  

This year they are putting more than $4 billion into TRS and it really should be over $6 billion if an actuary was doing it, but since more than 25% of the this years’s state budget is going into the pensions they cannot afford to do what is actuarily necessary.  If TRS was currently funded at 100%, the necessary “normal cost” to fund the current active teachers would be just over $1 billion.  

Three-fourths of what the state pays TRS is what they owe.  

Also no actuarial study was done in 1989 when they made the decision to go from a payment of 3% simple to 3% compounded for our annual increases. That is our most significant benefit and no one was asked to pay for it. No one, not teachers, not school districts, nor the state were required to increase their payments to pay for the benefit.  

The old joke that a legislator can only look as far as the next election is more accurate than it is funny. If the State of Illinois had paid for our pensions as we had earned them, it would have cost them less money and even more of our pensions would be coming from the profits of TRS’ investments.

Please remember that this is not official.  I could not speak for the TRS board when I was on it and I certainly cannot speak for it when I am no longer on the board. 

Here is why Chris Kennedy will lose: These guys want to do everything with our pensions but pay them.

ct-1520378790-3g1zmsoyr7-snap-image
Personally invested in the largest defense contractor in the world.

Here is why Chris Kennedy will not get the Democratic nomination to run against Bruce Rauner.

Well, maybe not the only reason.

But one reason.

He is one of these guys who has all kinds of ideas about what to do with the teachers’ retirement pension except how to pay the damn bill the state owes us.

Teachers hate that.

Remember Ira Silverstein?

Before he got in trouble for sending inappropriate emails to female lobbyists, his idea was to punish by excluding them from state pension investments any companies that signed on to BDS, a campaign of divestment and economic boycott of Israel.

It passed unanimously in the Illinois legislature. The same legislature that for 70 years underfunded the pension system.

But Ira Silverstein had an issue with BDS. So he used our retirement savings to pursue it.

Democratic governor candidate Chris Kennedy on Tuesday called for state pension funds to pull investments in gun and ammunition companies, and he criticized primary rival state Sen. Daniel Biss for not raising the idea first.

I’m thinking Senator Daniel Biss didn’t think of the idea first because the last time Senator Daniel Biss came up with an idea about state pensions it was stupid and unconstitutional.

I have moved on but – and trust me on this – I have teacher friends who will never vote for Daniel Biss for anything because of his self-admitted pension mistake.

Never ever.

Coming up with an idea first doesn’t make the idea a good one.

Chris Kennedy can’t pull state pensions from anywhere because it’s not his money. Not now. Not ever.

That money is ours – the retired public employees of the state. The investment of that money is directed by a board of trustees, some of whom are elected by the retirees and the active employees.

As in the case of BDS and Ira Silverstein before he got caught harassing women, the legislature can direct the trustees. But why should they? How would this not turn our pension system into a political football for everyone with an issue to go after.

Here’s what I say: Invest our retirement savings wisely.

Some state pension systems have come up with a socially conscious code of ethics for investment. I’m good with that.

But cherry picking issues?

Do it with your own money.

And why aren’t they talking about paying the hundred billion dollar liability the state is in arrears to TRS and the pension systems? Isn’t that the pension issue Chris Kennedy should be talking about?

Incredibly, Biss responded to Kennedy with the wrong answer.

Biss campaign spokesman Tom Elliott dismissed the critique as “just another ridiculous political stunt by the Kennedy campaign.”

But he said Biss would support the divestment from gun and ammunition makers, “just like he supports divesting the pension funds from dirty energy.”

 What the hell happened to the idea of elected officials passing laws and regulations about guns and dirty energy?

 The legislature seemed to have a problem even passing an anti-bumpstock law.

 But political opportunism and micro-managing our pensions comes easy when you’re running for office.

 By the way.

 Big Tobacco. Big Oil. Casinos. The largest defense contractor in the world. And the developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Those are just some of the hundreds of investment portfolio areas Democrats J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy list as part of paperwork they were required to file to run for governor.

Hey, Chris Kennedy. And JB. You know what matches up really well with the evils of gun manufacturing?

Personally investing in the largest defense contractor in the world.

Why didn’t you come up with the idea of divesting your personal inheritance in that stuff first?