An Illinois pension primer gets to the heart of the problem

The Better Government Association recently published an apologifor Illinois' high government worker pensions, diminishing them as a reason for the state's financial problems.

Its "Big pensions just a tiny part of big pension mess" is a disappointing and thin explanationpension that is based on union-friendly or financed sources, such as Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

If you truly want a more thorough and believable explanation check out "Pensions 101: Understanding  Illinois’ massive government workers pension crisis." It spotlights, for example, the stunning increase in the taxpayers' share of pension funding compared to the government workers' share. It explains how the average pension that the government worker receives is often understated by the special interests who want to life the blame for Illinois' financial crisis from the generous pension benefits paid to government workers.

Illinois is in the firm grip of public employee unions and their acolytes, such as Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. As long as this continues, Illinois will never recover its financial health.

Read why Americans need to learn about the nation's most ignored war.

Find out what freelance editorial services I can provide for you.


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  • This came up in the CTU negotiations. The teachers were posting on comment boards for about 10 years "we paid our share." Turned out they paid 2% and their share was 9%. They might have foregone a pay increase, but the pay was not constitutionally protected, while the pension was.

    One thing that the Chicago Transit Authority pension bill of 2008 proved is that the state can constitutionally require an increase in employee contributions and not make it subject to collective bargaining. Apparently, it won't take on AFSCME, though.

  • Who to believe? The Better Government Association, a Chicago-based investigative journalism non-profit organization? Or Illinois Policy Institute, which describes as a conservative group largely funded by the Charles Koch?

  • In reply to jnorto:

    On the other hand, one can't deny the clear facts on what CTU did.

  • In reply to jack:

    If you look at the BGA report you will see how small the Chicago school system is to the pension payouts for the state. CPS accounts for less than a fifth of the public school pensioners, 28,272 people. Suburban and downstate pensioners number 124,000. The mean Chicago pension is $52,610, compared with a mean of $52,016 for the suburban and downstate schools. Then there are the other state and municipal pensioners.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    So why is Forrest Claypool continually crying like a baby that his students or color are being discriminated against? Why did Rahm have to countermand Frosty's call that if he didn't get $215 or $250 million from the state, the schools would close today? Why are existing teachers still only paying 2%, despite Rahm's demand that they pay 7%?

    Either Rahm and Frosty were crying wolf and should be dismissed, or one can't get too much out of the BGA report (i.e. you didn't cite the percentage of teachers in Chicago vs. other districts, who have constitutionally protected, but seriously unfunded pensions). All of Claypool's griping is not the number of present annuitants, but that someone has to make a contribution to the CPS pension fund, and he claims not to have the money to do it.

    In fact, by citing only current pensioners and not the unfunded obligations, you are sanctioning all the giveaways preceding the current mess.

  • In reply to jack:

    So, what is the percentage, and what is your source?

  • In reply to jnorto:

    All I'm pointing out is that you are relying on flimsy numbers with underlying fallacies.

    I'll rely on this as indicating things are all fouled up statewide, even though it technically involves only a couple of city funds, and companion articles on how the legislature has passed a couple of bills on school aid but used procedural holds to keep them from the governor's desk for no apparent reason.

    Note also that the article says they tried one approach I mentioned above: "Veteran employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011, got to choose between contributing 11.5 percent for the right to retire at 65 or continuing to pay 8.5 percent — but waiting until 67 to retire."--.i.e. making employees contribute their share, although it isn't clear from that article what came of it.

    But it seems like you are more interested in a p---ing contest between think tanks than realizing there is a problem.

  • In reply to jack:

    I don't think you are going anywhere with this argument. My original observation concerning Dennis' posting was, "Who to believe?" The Better Government Association, or Illinois Policy Institute? I don't think either of them denies that Illinois and its local governments, Chicago included, have a funding crisis, including funding of pensions. Your replies have been a series of rambling anecdotes seemingly having little to do with either report.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    And I think I covered that in "a p--ing contest among think tanks." "Who to believe" is not an issue if the funding crisis is admitted. But I pointed out why I did not believe the numbers on which you relied. Then you put on me (22 hours ago) some obligation to come up with counternumbers, which demand you now admit to be a red herring.

    I took Dennis's post as not "a p--ing contest among think tanks" but pointing out that the taxpayers have assumed a greater share of the costs, as evidenced by CTU. But if Dennis had another intent, I'm sure he can respond.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Companion article (one link limit).

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, no other intent but to shed some light.

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    so I'm paying a bigger share of their completely protected pension while also funding my completely unprotected IRA? Well, that seems fair...while they were getting this sweet deal, my employer was moving from pensions to about government workers join the rest of the world in the 21st century and end pensions and go to IRAs too

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