Given how long and loudly we've been shouting for Illinois public pension reform, you might expect us to enthusiastically endorse any effort to fix what's broken. If only we were offered more than window dressing that threatens to do little good and much damage to the Illinois Constitution. Proposed constitutional Amendment 49 appearing on your Nov. 6 ballot is being sold as a way to keep lawmakers from sweetening already unsustainable state pensions to curry favor with powerful public employee unions. In truth it will merely muddy up the constitution, while having no impact on the state's $85 billion and growing pension hole. The change would require 60 percent approval for any pension increase at the state or local level rather than a simple majority. The measure sounds good, but it does little more than give political cover in an election year to members of the General Assembly who failed to make the tough choices necessary to fix the pension mess. (Hats off to Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who was one of only a handful of lawmakers who refused to sign onto this dodge.) Not only is the amendment too late to do anything about the current mess, its future effectiveness is in serious question. Consider, for example, that such pension sweeteners have been approved by healthy enough margins to routinely survive this new test. Remember, too, that this amendment includes "local" pensions. Do you want the state to usurp local authority to set benefits for employees? Finally, no one is sure exactly what the amendment will accomplish. Some say it will enable the General Assembly to make wholesale changes in pensions for current employees and pensioners that are currently believed to be unconstitutional. It wouldn't be the first time a measure crafted by Speaker Michael Madigan did more, or less than advertised. And did we mention that a bunch of money is being spent by the cash-strapped state to explain an amendment that appears to be both confusing and unnecessary. Senate candidate John Bambenek found the ballot question so confusing he joined a lawsuit challenging its validity. "This amendment was written by the Dark Sith Lord Michael Madigan himself with some of the smartest people in the state and they couldn't write something people could understand?" he asked. " I get that Madigan and his Chicago friends want to stick it to us, but could they do us the courtesy of doing it in a way we can understand? This ballot question and the amendment itself are incomprehensible gibberish." If lawmakers had put before voters a measure that simply and clearly lifted constitutional restrictions on changingemployee pensions, we would gladly have backed it. We got this mess instead. Don't be fooled into believing this fixes anything. We suggest you vote no.
Today is Monday, May 20, the 140th day of 2013. There are 225 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: A petition is being circulated asking the city council to order awell bored in Market Square. It would be a great accommodation to the public. 1888 -- 125 years ago: At 1 p.m. on May 18 the Mississippi River flooded its banks atRock Island and destroyed the warehouse of the Rock Island Lumber Co. and damagedRock Island Arsenal power plant. Total loss is estimated at $100,000. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Residents of Sough Rock Island Township are circulating apetition favoring the annexation of that area to the City of Rock Island. 1938 -- 75 years ago: A group of state members of the National Grandmothers Clubmeeting in Rock Island are making plans to petition for the observance of a NationalGrandmothers Day. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Deere and Co. reported today that its U.S. and Canadian sales forthe first half of the 1963 fiscal year set an all time record of $323,716.628. 1988 -- 25 years ago: William G. Lawrence, first administrative director, has retired fromPECO Enterprises, Inc. Prior to his service at PECO, Mr. Lawrence was the civilianpersonnel officer at the Rock Island Arsenal.