By: Mark Glennon*
J. Fred Giertz is emeritus faculty at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. Last week, he wrote an article widely republished across Illinois. It asks whether maybe, just maybe, SB-1, the pension reform law now invalidated, was a sham and a can-kick. There’s a big lesson here about how startlingly far behind the curve much of Illinois is on the pension crisis and the workings of the General Assembly.
Maybe the legislature was not incompetent, he says. They have a short time horizon and the chaos in Springfield “may” have been the result of “shrewd design” to avoid real reform. “I believe there is an alternative reasonable argument and that politicians may be behaving with a degree of rationality,” he says.
For crying out loud, of course it was a deliberate stunt. That was apparent from the start. We told you why the bill was junk when the first outline of it was leaked, two years ago. “Kick the can. Kick it hard. Kick it out of the end zone.” That’s what we wrote here as soon as we saw the initial outline. Since then, we repeatedly documented why SB-1 would have accomplished little and why it was likely to be ruled unconstitutional.
That took no great insight by us. The numbers were what they were and the constitution says what it says. What’s important is why so much of Illinois ignores plain reality.
“Even more puzzling,” writes Giertz, “is the fact that Senate President John Cullerton’s staff produced a law journal-style white paper arguing that the bill was unconstitutional while the bill under consideration.”
Oh, jeez, there’s nothing “puzzling” about it. Cullerton is a union guy and he wanted to kill even the small pension cuts in the bill. Hello.
Giertz shouldn’t be asking if SB-1 was a rationally designed gimmick. He should be asking why the legislature figured it could get away with it. The answer is they know the press and voters are easily duped. The political establishment here cranks out sham bills regularly. Most of SB-1’s original supporters in the General Assembly continue to claim it was a noble attempt at real pension reform.
Illinois needs plain, straight talk about its problems and its political class.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.