The cure for Illinois' financial ills

As long as the candidates are talking about amending the Illinois Constitution, let's toss out this Article XIII, Section 5:

PENSION AND RETIREMENT RIGHTS Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

House Fleecer Michael Madigan: Getting mad and getting even

House Fleecer Michael Madigan: Getting mad and getting even

This is the provision that "guarantees" that public employee pensions shall not be reduced, the cause of so much of Illinois' financial meltdown. A partial "reform" of the overly generous pension benefits was enacted last year, but it has a tough road ahead overcoming the lawsuits filed by the unions challenging the constitutionality of the new law.

As long as that provision remains in the Constitution, the odds that even this very modest reform will be upheld are slim.

So, why not petition to get on amendment on the ballot removing this provision? Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is pushing a ballot initiative to tax million-dollar-plus incomes at a higher rate than everyone else. Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner wants an amendment to limit legislators to a maximum of eight years in office.

That's a direct slap at Madigan, who has used his longevity to build a power base and, as Rauner says, to enrich himself at the expense of good government. In that light Madigan's proposal can be viewed retaliation directed at multi-millionaire Rauner. For Madigan, all politics is personal.

What was America's greatest come-from-behind war? Go here to find out.

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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