Anderson: Keep promises, phase in solutions

Posted Online: Oct. 02, 2012, 10:32 am
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By Neil Anderson
Illinois has a pension problem. While it is easy for both sides to point fingers and not address the issue, the reality is that Illinois is facing a pension crisis and without reform the pension systems will either run out of money or the state will be bankrupted by retiree costs.

The five systems funded by the state have an unfunded liability of over $83 billion and this continues to grow. Last year lawmakers budgeted $7.4 billion towards pension-related items out of a $33 billion budget, around 22 percent of the total budget went to pensions.

Pension costs are literally stealing from those who need assistance. Yet current lawmakers aren't willing to find a solution. Pension reform will never be easy, you are talking about affecting the retirement benefits of hundreds of thousands of public employees, but inaction jeopardizes these public servants' retirement since one day the check may not be in the mail.

My plan will be simple so that every employee will be able to understand what it will mean for their future and it will also make no changes to any of the benefits for current retirees, since it is unfair to break a promise to those already on a fixed income.

For all current employees I would phase in an increase in contributions, 1 percent per year over three years. This would give all employees ample time to prepare for the increase and would also begin saving the state money immediately.

Next, I would lower the cost of living adjustment for employees who are further than five years from retirement from the current 3 percent compounded annually to a simple interest adjustment based on inflation. Again, since it would not happen to anyone on the verge of retirement, it would give employees time they to adjust. Also I believe that the state should be more accountable; no longer should lawmakers be given the leeway to be irresponsible and pass bills that cut pension funding like my opponent has done in his time in Springfield.

I would introduce strict measures that would make it impossible for lawmakers to play games with pension funding through a Constitutional Amendment that would require full funding of the pension systems to be the first bill passed by the General Assembly every year. No other bills can be signed into law until the fully certified pension contribution is made.

While I cannot support shifting the costs of pensions onto local school districts, I do support increased accountability at the local level by making school districts pay pension costs for end-of-career raises that are over the increase in inflation. However, given the scope of the unfunded pension debt at over $200 billion and counting, it would be ill-advised to transfer any existing red ink to school districts, as this would deal a crushing blow to home owners, when a huge spike in property taxes would transpire.

Pension reform will never be easy to accomplish, but it is necessary. I am committed to working towards a solution that balances what we owe our public servants and taxpayers in Illinois.

Neil Anderson is the GOP candidate for Illinois 72nd District state representative.


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)