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Forum: State must honor constitutional protection

Updated: February 5, 2013 6:39AM



It’s important to note that delegates to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention never had to run for re-election. The document they produced still serves as the blueprint for Illinois law, and 42 years later their collective wisdom is at the front of the debate over public pensions.

Ralph Martire, executive director of the bipartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, perfectly summarizes the problem as a debt crisis, not a pension crisis. The debt crisis has been exacerbated by the Legislature’s chronic borrowing of pension assets to cover daily expenses. It’s like a family borrowing from its home equity every month to buy food.

Now, after the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, there is a panicked attempt to strip teachers and other public workers of their constitutionally guaranteed pension benefits. The authors of our constitution guaranteed public pensions because the unfunded liabilities of those systems in 1970 were virtually identical to today.

Can you imagine the state refusing to honor other contractual obligations, like those with vendors? Solutions must be real and long-term. Let’s start by admitting that teacher pensions did not cause our state’s financial problems. It will take courage and vision to do exactly that.

Gary Elmen

President,
Illinois Retired Teachers Association

Springfield

Easy choice to do nothing

“One step forward, two steps back” is a good description of the fight to legalize and regulate drugs to stop the drug-related violence that’s a routine occurrence in Chicago and every big city.

In November, voters in Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana, a step forward. But this month, the Sandy Hook School tragedy has the country (Cook County and Illinois included) taking two steps backward with endless discussions and proposals for gun control, some good and some bad.

Not a day goes by when the press and the politicians can’t find some reason to postpone the inevitable showdown between drug prohibition policy and the constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with fewer guns, gangs and violence.

Unfortunately, another Christmas season has come and gone without Santa delivering the best present for all — an end to the war on drugs that arms bad guys to the teeth with assault weapons and handguns, even when guns, like drugs, are banned.

James E. Gierach

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Palos Park

Selective quotation

How is it, in the debate over gun control, that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” is defended, and rightly so, but the phrase “well regulated” in the Second Amendment is often omitted or ignored?

If people want to cite the amendment, shouldn’t they stand behind it in its entirety?

Bob Hall

Mount Greenwood



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