Billing himself as the only non-millionaire in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, State Senator Kirk Dillard spoke to mainly women at Crystal Lake’s 1776 restaurant Tuesday morning.
He related having received this advice from his former boss, former Governor Jim Edgar:
“You must find a way to attract women and Latinos.”
Jobs, education and safety are the approaches Dillard said he was taking for both demographics.
My friend Pete Castillo and I arrived during the question and answer session for the 45 or so McHenry Countians in attendance.
Dillard reflected on his ability to work with newly-elected Senate President John Cullerton:
“We work on things we can get along on.”
In answer to a question about the pension debt hanging over Illinois, Dillard came out in favor of a two-tiered pension system with new employees not being guaranteed a certain amount each month.
(Government pensions are typically called “defined benefits.” They guarantee a certain amount each month and, in the case of Illinois, a 3% increase each year whether inflation is lower or higher. Private enterprise has moved from the defined benefit approach to a “defined contribution” approach in which the employer agrees to put so much a pay period into a pension pot. The amount available for retirement depends on how the money is invested and whether and how much the employee sets aside his or her own money for retirement.)
Dillard said he thought he was the only one who could pull that off (not his words). In a telephone town meeting with Andy McKenna, I heard his rival take something of a similar approach to reforming future pensions.
Dillard pointed out that the pension problem is not just one for state taxpayers. Local governments’ police and fire protection personnel have similar problems of under funding.
“We can’t sustain” the state pension situation, Dillard said. If something is not done about the pension system, “we will have no money for education, (hospitals and other functions financed by state government).”
Why does Dillard say that?
Because the Illinois state constitution pretty much says that pensions get paid first. At least as long as members of the Illinois Supreme Court get pensions like other state employees.
“I’m the person who has the political courage to get it done),” the state senator said, indicating he would tell state employee union leaders,
“If we don’t make these changes, we’ll go insolvent and a Federal bankruptcy judge will (impose) them.”
A question was asked about providing “tax credits up to a certain level” for contributions to not-for-profit organizations. Credits are subtractions from what one owes in state or federal income taxes.
Dillard indicated his support for such a change in the income tax law because not-for-profit groups provide better services cheaper than state government.
Touching on the precarious nature of state finances, Edgar’s former chief of staff pointed out that bills were paid in 17 days when the former governor was in office, but now a nursing home in his district hasn’t been paid “in more than five months.”