Crain’s Chicago Business published the following opinion piece by the Institute’s CEO, John Tillman:
This was the running theme during Illinois’ recent lame duck session: Pass anything.
After a failed last-ditch effort by Gov. Pat Quinn, the 97th General Assembly ended earlier this month without a lame duck vote on a pension bill. Media and civic groups immediately lashed out against Illinois lawmakers, calling them cowards, ineffective, failures.
But we view this inaction as a win.
A bill co-authored by state Reps. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, and Daniel Biss, D-Skokie, contained window dressing that attracted a broad base of support, but we saw through to its many flaws:
- It would not actually fix the problem of unfunded debt.
- It would have left in place a broken defined benefit system.
- It would have created a pension payment guarantee by the state, and thus the taxpayers, for funding.
The guarantee was the most insidious item in the bill it would have placed all future risk on the backs of Illinois taxpayers and removed all ability to negotiate with unions going forward.
Consider this: It has been nearly 20 years since Illinois passed substantial pension reform. This reform which, at the time, was hailed as a success failed within 10 years.
Had the Nekritz-Biss bill passed, it would have locked us into a failed pension system that would continue to drain resources from core government services.
In the meantime, the pressure for real reform grows. We’re looking forward to rolling out a plan for change in the near future. Here’s a snapshot:
- Freeze pensions at current levels and increase the retirement age.
- Eliminate future cost-of-living adjustments.
- Set up a defined contribution plan going forward modeled on the State Universities Retirement System’s self-managed plan.
- Implement local accountability for the defined contribution system going forward.
Sometimes big ideas die quietly in Springfield. That’s what happened during the lame duck session.