Illinois State Representative - 52nd District
The state’s pension obligations should not be shifted to suburban school districts. Property taxes are already too high. The State Legislature created the problems and needs to address it by adopting a comprehensive pension reform proposal.
The pension funding gap is the result of legislators and politicians over promising and over committing to special interests. When they initially could not meet the obligations to the funding of the pension system they borrowed more money and put off the day of reckoning. These irresponsible acts have consequences and all parties will have to participate in order to get our fiscal house in order. Below is a brief overview of steps needed in this state for pension reform: (1) Eliminate pensions for state legislators; and (2) For existing employees, reduce pension cost-of-living adjustments. Also, as Option 1, protect the existing defined benefit pension benefits earned to date and going forward convert employees into 401(k) plans similar to those offered in the private sector. Going forward, some employees should also have the option of joining the Social Security system and receiving a smaller 401(k) matching payment from the State than offered under Option 1. In order to address the unfunded retiree health care obligations, future benefits need to be reduced. The eligibility age for retiree health care benefits should be increased.
It is imperative that the state immediately address the funding crisis. Without a long-term solution, the state will only fall deeper into debt and disarray.
Meaningful pension reform is not just about fixing the mistakes of the past; equally important are the reforms that will lay the foundation for a stable system for the future. Illinois took some positive steps in this direction with the reforms passed in 2010, but we still have a ways to go. The state needs to be responsible and pay required pension payments in full and on time. We cannot use the pension funds as a slush fund and “borrow” from it whenever legislators want to spend money elsewhere. Politicians have got to stop thinking about their own political consequences or personal gain, and start making decisions based the long-term consequences.
Regardless of the final proposal, all of the stakeholders need to have a seat at the table and a voice in the process because all parties involved will need to make some concessions. I do not think shifting pension costs on to school districts is a realistic solution. Even without these added costs, property taxes are skyrocketing, making it more difficult for families already struggling to get by. We cannot simply turn to homeowners whenever government fails to balance its budgets.