It's election time, and voting on Nov. 6 does not just mean voting for president and other local officials, but also voting for various referendums on the ballot. I talked about one of the issues on the ballot, the vote for an elected school board, earlier in this blog, and now I will talk of another one that affects the entire state of Illinois and its municipals workers. It is pension reform. There is a proposed amendment that will require a three-fifths majority vote to approve any pension or retirement benefit increase for public employees and officials.
Many are now saying it was too easy to pass pension benefits with a 50%+1 voting model, and that it is because of those easily passed pension benefits that Illinois is in the financial crisis it's in now. This pension reform is expected to be the savior of Illinois' credit rating.
The Secretary of State Jesse White sent out a pamphlet to registered voters in the State explaining the reform and why they should vote in favor of it. In case you didn't receive it, here are the main three reasons for the passing of the amendment:
- A higher vote requirement would help prevent unfunded future liability for pension benefits.
- Requiring a three-fifth vote would provide a better accountability.
- A three-fifths vote requires greater consensus among parties.
Okay, I'll admit the first point. Illinois has one of the most underfunded pension plans in the US, and the state doesn't have the money to pay for the current pensions it has, but was it really due to the quickness of voting for pension increases? As we all know, getting a law passed, especially when it regards fiscal matters, is really easy, right? (The correct answer is no.) I don't remember the economic crash happening because of pensions. As for the second point, I'm not exactly sure how the amendment will add more accountability either. Voting records of state senators and representatives are public so the state residents know who voted for what, and to vote them out if they do not like their voting record. The last point makes me want to giggle out loud, because it makes light of the fact that we live in an era of hard partisan lines that even mustering 50%+1 for a vote is nearly impossible. What the last point is basically guaranteeing is that there will be slim to nil chances of any pension plan increases if this amendment passes.
The pamphlet to its merits did provide both sides of the argument. The three main arguments against the reform are pretty strong. They are:
- A higher vote requirement may limit the bargaining power of employers and employees.
- There is the possibility of disagreement on what constitutes a benefit increase.
- Requiring a supermajority for pension benefit increases could make it more difficult to recruit the best people to work in government service.
The first point basically attacks unions. The power of unions comes from its bargaining power, and this reform law will make it harder to exercise that right. The second point is one of the most accurate statements I've seen. Pension increases are in the eye of the beholder. What someone might think is an increase might actually, in the long run, curb other expenditures for the state. Who ends up being right in the end and who is stuck being the monkey in the middle? The last point made against the reform allows for all those people who want government to run like a business to see an aspect of the hiring process that is very business-like. When someone is looking for a job they are looking for a career, but with that comes pay and benefits. If you have two similar jobs and one pays more and has better benefits, which one do you think the worker is going to choose? Government pension benefits drive innovation and change in the business world, because how the government treats its workers ensures that the floor of worker's rights does not go any lower in the business world. Big business has to compete with government benefits and pay. If public pay starts to go down, so will private pay.
So, the pension reform comes down to supporting worker's rights or not. Do you believe people should receive adequate benefits that increase and change with the times or would you like to see wages and benefits losing ground both privately and publicly? Vote wisely.
If you agree that there should be a three-fifths vote for pension increases, vote "YES" on Nov. 6.
If you DO NOT agree that there should be a three-fifths vote for pension increases, vote "NO" on Nov. 6.
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