Op-ed: Illinois pension reform: Arizona provides a model worth another look

Link: https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-illinois-pension-reform-arizona-20210525-eb5z573ajbfdlhemyj25yij22i-story.html


Which is why every politician and every voter in Illinois ought to know how Arizona managed its 2016 reform of the 48% funded Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, which had a cost-of-living adjustment calculation that everyone agreed was broken, including the unions themselves. But Arizona shares with Illinois a constitutional protection against pension changes, specifically stating that “public retirement systems shall not be diminished or impaired.”

So how did they implement this change? In a two-step process, the legislature passed reform legislation and then placed on the ballot a constitutional amendment which inserted a new clause into the state constitution: “Public retirement systems shall not be diminished or impaired, except that certain adjustments to the public safety personnel retirement system may be made as provided in Senate Bill 1428, as enacted by the fifty-second legislature, second regular session.”

This meant that the citizens of Arizona could vote on this pension change without having to worry about whether they were authorizing any unknown future changes to pensions that they might not have wanted.

Author(s): Elizabeth Bauer

Publication Date: 25 May 2021

Publication Site: Chicago Tribune

Editorial: Former House Speaker Michael Madigan’s pension illustrates the broken system

Link; https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-fixing-illinois-chicago-budget-madigan-pension-20210226-tt4kmbn7hbetldxgez57x4ioqq-story.html#new_tab


Former House Speaker Michael Madigan, after 50 years as a member of the Illinois House and a contributor into one of the state’s five pension funds, the General Assembly Retirement System, will receive an annual pension of around $85,117, about 85% of his final salary.

In July 2022, his pension will rise to about $148,995 due to padding lawmakers built into the system for themselves over the years. He’ll receive a guaranteed 3% raise on his pension each year, no matter what the actual cost of living is.

During those 50 years in office, Madigan contributed from his own paycheck about $351,000 toward his retirement account. He quickly will start receiving far more than he put in.

Author(s): Editorial board

Publication Date: 26 February 2021

Publication Site: Chicago Tribune

Editorial: The dangers of an oversized stimulus package and a lesson from Illinois — yes, Illinois!

Link: https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/editorials/ct-editorial-stimulus-payments-1400-economy-20210210-3jtgubimtjgi5deaigdplzilpe-story.html#new_tab


Look at Illinois, of all places. Next week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to introduce his budget for the next fiscal year. While the details are sketchy, his office estimates the state will need to close a $3 billion deficit, less than the $5.5 billion his office originally estimated. A stronger than expected economy is partly due the credit. While closing a $3 billion hole is not great news, we’ll take what we can get around here.

Yet, rather than take into account rosier economic pictures states like Illinois are projecting, Democrats in Washington are pressing for another big spending bill, even as they juggle the other big news of the week, the start of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. They insist an undersized response during the Great Recession slowed that recovery. But keep in mind during that far worse slump, President Barack Obama’s stimulus program had a price tag around $800 billion. Since the pandemic hit, by contrast, Congress has responded with $4 trillion in new outlays.

Does that sound like “too little?” More than $1 trillion of that sum has not even been spent yet, according to the Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget.

Author(s): Editorial board

Publication Date: 10 February 2021

Publication Site: Chicago Tribune

Speaker Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch wants a graduated income tax do-over — this time tied to pension funding

Link: https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-chris-welch-speaker-graduated-income-tax-illinois-20210224-fuzpz3fznrdwzpp7lhnhdlflue-story.html


New Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch suggested Wednesday that the state should again ask voters to approve a graduated-rate income tax, but this time target the new money toward paying down Illinois’ massive pension debt.

The call for a do-over came after voters in November overwhelmingly rejected Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s graduated income tax proposal. Opponents, including Republicans and business leaders, used distrust of Springfield to argue for keeping the state constitution’s flat tax requirement.


Publication Date: 24 February 2021

Publication Site: Chicago Tribune

Editorial: Get tough, Gov. Pritzker, on AFSCME

Link: https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-fixing-illinois-chicago-budget-afscme-furlough-20210215-b6odtzttd5cjfkwu6vrde3e3be-story.html#new_tab


Gov. J.B. Pritzker is scheduled to outline his budget plan on Wednesday for the fiscal year that starts July 1. It should include sacrifice from the nearly 40,000 state workers whose jobs have not been at risk like millions in the private sector and who got generous pay raises, funded by taxpayers, during the pandemic when Illinois’ unemployment soared to 16%. It is high time the state’s unionized workforce be part of the “shared sacrifice” our politicians so often expect of the private sector workforce.


While sectors of the state workforce have been extra busy due to COVID-19’s strain on unemployment benefits and health care systems, many state offices and agencies have been closed, services backlogged and workers learning to perform their jobs from home. Taking unpaid furlough days should not be a big “ask” compared with what the private sector has endured under Pritzker’s shutdown orders — restaurants, hotels, convention business, sports and marketing jobs — entire industries sidelined and in some cases, wiped out.

Other blue state governors confronted their unionized workforces months ago and showed leadership in doing so. Democratic governors in Wisconsin, California and New York cut public sector pay, instituted across-the-board spending cuts throughout state government, froze hiring and scheduled raises, and prepared for what would become a nearly yearslong economic slump due to COVID-19. They did it to protect all taxpayers.

Author(s): Editorial board

Publication Date: 15 February 2021

Publication Site: Chicago Tribune

Pritzker said the failure of his graduated-rate income tax would leave Illinois with two options. He’s eliminated both of them.

Link: https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-jb-pritzker-illinois-budget-proposal-20210214-bjbay24vpvggfpg2urhbn4ojsy-story.html#new_tab


Gov. J.B. Pritzker long warned that without his graduated-rate income tax, which voters rejected in November, Illinois would be left with only two options to address its chronic budget problems: raising income taxes or double digit across-the-board spending cuts.

But ahead of his budget address to lawmakers Wednesday, Pritzker outlined a state spending plan that would neither raise the income tax or alter the total budget outlay.

He did call for closing $900 million in unspecified “corporate tax loopholes,” which opponents are already labeling a tax hike on businesses in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

What remains to be seen is whether the governor will look to other avenues to increase revenue, although his options appear limited. He has opposed two of the leading options favored by some budget watchers: instituting a tax on retirement income and applying the sales tax to some services.


Publication Date: 14 February 2021

Publication Site: Chicago Tribune

More people died on Illinois roads last year than since 2007. Is the pandemic to blame?

Link: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-illinois-more-traffic-deaths-pandemic-20210212-4ybopm6pvbelpeorspd3cxm7gy-htmlstory.html#new_tab


Nearly 160 more people died on Illinois roads last year than in 2019, making 2020 the deadliest year for Illinois drivers in 13 years, a surge officials say may have been fed by drivers speeding on roads left open by motorists who stayed home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 1,166 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Illinois in 2020, a nearly 16% increase over 2019, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. That’s a provisional number, said IDOT spokesperson Guy Tridgell, since it takes the state agency 12-18 months to finalize annual data.

Illinois traffic fatalities haven’t been that high since 2007, when 1,248 people died, according to recent and historic state data. Deaths include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.


Publication Date: 12 February 2021

Publication Site: Chicago Tribune