If Pritzker and Welch are serious about winning trust, they’ll allow Illinoisans to vote on a standalone constitutional amendment repealing the so-called “pension protection clause.” To build public support and treat retirees fairly, such an amendment could be narrowly drawn to permit only reductions in future pension increases under the COLA mechanism.
Sure, public employee unions are likely to fight any change in pensions. But it’s worth trying to win their support. It can be done; Arizona unions backed a narrow amendment to a pension protection clause in that state’s constitution. If unions won’t cooperate, Pritzker and Welch should forge ahead anyway, as Rhode Island officials—led by Democrat Gina Raimondo—did in tackling a similar pension crisis.
Only after passing such an amendment and reducing the overall pension obligation can state officials justifiably ask taxpayers for money to close the remaining gap. Would a graduated income tax be the right way to raise the necessary revenue? Maybe. I’m not opposed to it on principle. The vast majority of states with an income tax charge higher rates on higher incomes. And the necessity of a constitutional amendment would give voters the final say.
Author(s): Joe Cahill
Publication Date: 25 February 2021
Publication Site: Crain’s Chicago Business