State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who is challenging Governor Rauner in the Republican primary, today announced how she’d like to tackle our pension crisis. It has three parts:
Pass a constitutional amendment to change the pension protection clause.
Require all new hires to enter a 401K-stlye self-managed plan.
Re-negotiate pension obligations with current workers and retirees.
You’d think those steps would be obvious in light of the plain numbers on pensions, which have been clearly insurmountable for years. Not to Illinois candidates for governor.
What’s the proposal from Democratic candidates? Just pay them, each says, without offering a hint of a plan for how that could be done.
Rauner, too, has put pensions on the back burner even though they’re responsible for the bulk of our fiscal crisis. He piddled around earlier with “consideration-based” proposal championed by Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) but didn’t get it done and it would have solved little.
Why on earth hasn’t he been pounding the table for these reforms and more?
They wouldn’t now get through the Democratic General Assembly. Yes, I get that, but this is a long-term battle the public must be made to understand. The governor has a unique position for setting the narrative but Rauner hasn’t used it. It’s an example why a Chicago Tribune editorial was right do say he just doesn’t “make the case.
And it’s hardly certain these steps would work or be sufficient. Amending the state constitution to allow cuts to unfunded liabilities would still be challenged in court under federal constitutional issues. Switching to a 401K-style system would work only for new hires and therefore wouldn’t cut pension debt. Re-negotiating could only be done through collective bargaining, binding current workers only.
But the scope of this disaster demands that any and all reforms be pursued — big and small, even if the chances of success aren’t good. We just don’t have the luxury of having any sure things at hand.
-Mark Glennon is founder and Executive Editor of Wirepoints. Opinions expressed are his own.