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Forum: Latest pension reform plan lacking

Updated: January 14, 2013 7:26AM



Pension reform plan lacking

The latest version of pension “reform” legislation introduced by state Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) is an improbable step backward in efforts to save public pensions.

Foremost in its regression is language that impairs and diminishes the constitutionally guaranteed pension benefits for current retirees. There is one indisputable fact that cannot be ignored — cutting or diminishing benefits to those already retired is a violation of the Illinois Constitution.

Furthermore, it is important to remember why these guarantees exist. Today, the unfunded liability of the Teachers’ Retirement System is about 50 percent. When the authors of our constitution crafted the language we abide by today, the unfunded liability was virtually the same.

A teacher’s pension is a result of a solemn promise between the teacher and the employer (constitutionally, the state of Illinois). At every juncture, teachers have held up their end of the bargain.

They spent a career in the classroom, imparting priceless knowledge to young people in return for a middle-class salary and the promise of financial security in their retirement years. They contributed 9.4 percent of their income every year for that retirement security because they are not eligible for Social Security.

To protect the public employees of the state, including teachers, from the arbitrary nature of future General Assemblies and their tendency to misappropriate budgets, the constitutional authors guaranteed the retirement security of those workers by specifically saying that their pensions were enforceable contracts under the law.

Until this legal guarantee is seriously addressed in negotiations, we will not be able to seriously address pension reform.

James Bachman

Executive director

Illinois Retired Teachers Association

A religious paradox

The president of the United States, after lighting the national Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., sang traditional Christmas carols with others. The U.S. Senate and House open their sessions with prayers. Every political speech these days ends with, “God bless the United States of America.”

But we can’t have prayers at sports events or wish a mass audience “Merry Christmas” or allow Christmas symbols or displays on public property or a moment of silent prayer in schools. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Dick Smith

Monee

No driver’s licenses for illegals

I fail to understand our elected officials. Why are they spending any time debating and passing legislation related to issuing temporary visitor driver’s licenses?

Until these same political officials take the time and effort to rewrite the current laws, these individuals are illegal immigrants and should be dealt with based on the existing laws.

Enforce the current laws and don’t pass legislation to compensate for the problems caused by being in the country illegally.

Art Carpenter

Chicago



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