Ill. Tea Party: What YOU Don't Know

From the Illinois House Republicans…

Jerry Clarke Knew Rep. Tim Johnson was quitting, why didn’t the voters?

The Illinois Tea Party was the first to break the story that Jerry Clarke knew Rep. Tim Johnson was stepping down weeks before the voters did. Jerry Clarke registered the website on February 10, 2012, weeks before the March 20 primary where voters in the 13th Congressional District voted for Johnson to make him the Republican candidate in November’s election, and weeks before Johnson announced he was stepping down on April 5. We broke the story Monday night on the homepage of Others have run with the story.

This is yet another example of a lack of accountability from our leaders, a lack of transparency and a complete lack of truth. The voters of the 13th District have been completely left out of the process of who will represent them in Washington. The taxpayers did not get to vote, the political establishment took that right away from them. There is a reason people feel like the government is out of control.

Jerry Clarke is currently a staffer for Rep. Randy Hultgren in another district, the 14th. Clarke is best known for “managing” the disastrous campaign of Bill Brady for Governor in 2010. Brady had as much as a 13% point lead over Governor Quinn throughout the summer, a 10% lead less than a month before the election, and even led Quinn the weekend before the vote.

Brady’s loss resulted in the record 67% tax increase in January of last year and gave the power to redraw the political maps in Illinois to Mike Madigan and the Democrats, with no check or balance from Republicans at all.

The fact that one of the people most responsible for putting redistricting completely in the hands of Mike Madigan may now reap the rewards of his incompetence is yet another slap in the face to the hardworking people of Illinois. The “Clarke Map” used to be a joke to describe the disastrous consequences of Bill Brady’s loss. Now the term “Clarke Map” has taken on more meaning as the disaster continues.
Quinn’s Pension Plan Falls Short – State Still in Death Loop

Governor Quinn announced his plan to “stabilize” Illinois public pensions last Friday. His plan contains some minor elements of reforms (i.e. COLA adjustment, increased retirement age) proposed by many organizations – including Illinois Tea Party. But it falls well short of the real changes required to transform Illinois into a prosperous economy. The real intention of this plan is to shore up Illinois’ terrible credit rating – worst in the country and only 2 steps above junk status. Last year Illinois paid an astounding $6.8B of interest on the $86B of unfunded pension liability. Any further credit downgrade would dramatically increase our cost of borrowing which the state can no longer afford.

The Governor’s plan includes minor increases in employee contribution to their own retirement and a shifting of funding responsibilities for education (over time) from the state to local entities. We agree that public sector employees must increase contributions into their own retirement – ultimately meeting the same levels as the private sector. We also believe making the local taxpayers responsible for public employee compensation promises made in the taxing district of origin, is ultimately the right move to create the necessary transparency. The shock of massive property tax increases will cause the taxpayer revolt that seems all but necessary. Another benefit is the relief to downstate taxpayers who are funding Chicago area public sector employees who in are many cases paid substantially more in salary and pensions.

The most significant gap in the governor’s plan is the time element and the lack of “private sector like” transformation agenda. With this plan the governor indicates Illinois will have a “90% funded status” by 2045 – and still left with a $32B unfunded liability after 2045. This is totally unacceptable given that our neighbors – in particular Wisconsin – have already reached full funding status on their public sector pension liabilities through aggressive reforms modeled after the private sector. They do not have to raise taxes on individuals or corporations in order to meet budget. This will make these states very attractive for private sector job growth luring companies from less competitive states like Illinois.

The plan also ignores the other gigantic area of debt – public sector healthcare – which is reported to be over $40B. This plan continues to provide healthcare subsidies to public sector workers whom are already receiving $5,300 more in benefits than equivalent private sector workers. And only a very few private sector employers provide healthcare coverage (dollars) to retirees – period. Given the public sector employees make on average 23% more than equivalent private sector workers it seems obvious that the governor’s plan would have seized this opportunity to be more aggressive. Lastly the goal of maintaining a “defined benefit” pension program seems out of touch with the economic realities of the state. It is also out of sync with bulk of private sector companies (only 3% have defined benefits programs) who shifted to “defined contribution” (e.g. 401K).This plan is aimed at stabilizing the pension debt to keep Illinois’ terrible credit rating from falling even further.

Maybe this is a necessary step but the state is still in a severe doom loop and our prospects very dim if we can’t cut much deeper and faster than this plan. Illinois lost almost 364,000 jobs in the last 15 years and is ranked number 48 in employer attractiveness. Our elected officials must stop dumping exorbitant and excessive public sector employee promises on the backs of the taxpayer. The Illinois Tea Party stands committed to right sizing our government using the private sector as the model – including the use of a managed bankruptcy to restructure public sector debt, compensation, work rules and benefits.

Jeff Tucek is the Leader of the Illinois Tea Party Pension Reform Initiative

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