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Top Illinois Dem Wants to Fight Pension Hikes

Michael Madigan is a Democrat and serves as Speaker of the House in the Illinois state legislature. He is also horrified about the state’s mind-blowing shortfall of $80 billion needed for the state’s retirement system to pay all its obligations.

Madigan thinks the best solution would be an amendment to the Illinois constitution that would require a super-majority of legislators to endorse any changes to the pension system that increased the state’s obligations to retirees. Under Madigan’s proposal, which needs to be passed by both houses in the legislature and then approved by the state’s voters, it would take a 60 percent majority in both houses to incur new pension obligations.

Readers will not be surprised to hear that AFSCME, a union representing many public sector workers, thinks this is a terrible idea.

Actually, AFSCME may not have to worry. Illinois legislators regularly whoop pension hikes through on unanimous or near unanimous votes, many Republicans and Democrats apparently united in their determination to ruin the state and ultimately to impoverish retirees when the bills come due and can’t be paid.

Even so, we think Speaker Madigan’s proposal is a good start, and hope other states will take a good hard look at the idea. This isn’t about trying to stiff state workers or condemning them to penurious retirements living on kibble; it is about making sure that states only make pension promises that they can and will keep. There are few things more vicious and irresponsible than making promises to people about their retirement benefits that you cannot and will not honor.

And it should remind us: the blue model isn’t dying because evil, life-hating Republicans are killing it. It is dying because the costs associated with it cannot be paid with the income it produces.

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  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “And it should remind us: the blue model isn’t dying because evil, life-hating Republicans are killing it. It is dying because the costs associated with it cannot be paid with the income it produces.”

    And because Democrats are economic morons, whose fiscal management is bankrupting every state they have control of, despite the lame “day late and dollar short” policies a few are only now attempting to implement. Why this blog plays the apologist, and refuses to roundly criticize Democrats as they so justly deserve, for their fiscal incompetence, and lame attempts to prevent the coming fiscal disasters, is beyond this commenter’s understanding. It is time to Fire the Democrats and send them into the wilderness for a generation where their stupidity can no longer destroy our economic future.

  • Lorenz Gude

    Kibble?!! We demand Snappy Tom!

    Seriously, my CREF pension rises and falls with the market. If the DOW goes to 400, then it will be kibble time, but fair enough. I think states will go two ways: modify benefits to ensure they don’t go broke or stay in denial until they crash. Because the states can’t print money like the Federales, I think the next generation of national leadership will come from the state politicians who successfully deal with this crisis. Good to see Democrats and Republicans getting serious at the state level. It can be done by confrontation like Scott Walker or by softer negotiation like Cuomo and Brown. Or somewhere in the middle like Chris Christie. May the best man or woman win – regardless of party.

  • Randy

    Speaking as a longtime chumbolone and resident of the People’s Republic of Madiganistan (aka Illinois), I would urge Dr. M to also note that the (dis)honorable Mr. Madigan has been capo of the Illinois house for all but two years going back to 1983 (not to mention being member of the legislature for 42 years), and that therefore he possibly, just possibly, bears a tiny bit of the blame for this shocking pension shortfall. Interested readers might also be curious about Madigan’s property tax appeal firm.

  • Percy Dovetonsils

    Not mention that Madigan’s daughter is the state Attorney General. Yes, the man has connections, you bet.

    Madigan has been the most powerful politician in this state for years (at least since Jim Edgar was governor), and his fingerprints are all over this fiscal disaster.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Percy Dovetonsils: Which makes it all the more interesting that he now feels the need to trim his sails. Even the prime movers of blue at the state level are starting to realize that they don’t have the money to keep on in this way.

  • Robert Day

    I have read your article with disgust. I am a correctional officer of 16 years. I am one of many who are forced to pay into the state’s pension system with the promise of receiving a pension at a certain age. When a legislative body and lobby groups collaborate on dipping into our savings to pay the piper, this is criminal to say the least. We, the correctional officers, are prepared to file criminal charges on whoever is responsible for this “ponzi scheme.” I highly suggest that if the legislature wishes to pay more into entitlement programs, the body should dip into their OWN retirement bank to satisfied themselves. The people of Illinois and the legislative body has put enough on our backs for their ideological wrongdoings.

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