The great heavyweight champion Joe Louis is famous for saying, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”
Thousands of Illinois public employees, teachers included, made plans to talk to state legislators when they were going to meet in lame duck session January 3rd.
Emails were sent out. Phone calls were made. Buses were rented. Vacation plans were changed.
Chicago area’s so-called progressive Democrats like Dan Biss, Elaine Nekritz, Robin Gabel and Kelly Cassidy are sponsoring a pension reform bill that will do great harm to retirees if it is passed.
But once the word went out that we were coming, the House cancelled their session until January 6th.
So since I’ll be in Springfield on January 3rd and the so-called progressive Democrats will be in hiding, here is my point:
1. You know now that your bill and any bill that diminishes or impairs the retirement benefits of state employees is in violation of the state’s constitutional pension protection provision.
2. You know now that it breaks a contractual agreement.
3. You know now that cutting benefits such as cost of living increases to retired seniors or denying them access (Just access. Teachers already pay their own premium.) to the state’s retiree health insurance does nothing to reduce the billions of dollars in pension liability.
4. You know now increasing teacher contributions won’t make a dent in the state’s pension obligation.
5. You know now that shifting the cost of the pension obligation to local districts will create havoc for already cash-strapped school districts and local tax-payers.
6. You know now that going after retirees in spite of promises made to them when we began our teaching careers is morally indefensible.
7. You know now, as my post yesterday demonstrated, that cutting pension benefits is a financial hit on the working people of your legislative district, not just on the members of the pension systems.
8. You know now the solution to the pension issue does not rest on cutting benefits, but on finding revenue. You know now that the current state income tax, one that taxes the rich and the poor at the same tax rate, can’t possibly raise enough revenue to pay the state’s bills. You know now that only a progressive income tax, one which asks more from those most able to pay, can raise enough revenue without financially crushing working people.
You know all this because we have presented the evidence to you for years.
And many of you even admit that it is true.
What can we conclude?
We can conclude that your only interest is protecting those that can most afford to pay, no matter who it hurts.
When we say that even though the current system asks the housekeeper at the Hyatt Hotel to pay the same state income tax rate as Hyatt owner Penny Pritzker, you refuse to act.
“We don’t have the votes for tax fairness,” you told me.
Even though Democrats have won both houses of the Illinois General Assembly by veto proof majorities and a Democrat is governor?
For years you have tried to cut the benefits of retired public employees but have done nothing to address the revenue issue.
We’re coming next Thursday.
You can run, but you can’t hide.