Public Employee Unions’ Response to Quinn’s Pension Proposal

And here’s the public unions’ response:

The "We Are One" union pension protection web site's masthead. "Don't let the politicians cut public employee's pensions," reads the headline.

We Are One Illinois statement on Quinn news conference

Responding to Gov. Pat Quinn’s news conference on pensions held Friday, April 20, Illinois AFL-CIO president Michael Carrigan issued this statement for the We Are One Illinois coalition of unions that represent public employees:

The unions representing public employees are committed to working with Gov. Quinn and the members of the General Assembly to find a solution to the pension funding crisis caused by the state’s failure to pay its share.

It is crucial that the pension problem not be compounded by an unconstitutional solution that is unfair to public employees who have always paid their share. The average public employee pension is just $32,000. Because most public employees do not receive Social Security, this modest pension is their life savings.

Despite the willingness of the unions to engage in substantive discussions, our organizations were not asked to be part of Governor Quinn’s pension working group. We were invited to just four meetings and only a few days ago received any data by which to judge its proposals.

We strongly disagree with the proposals made today. Considering that the subject at hand is the ability of hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans to support themselves in retirement, we believe the proposals are insensitive and irresponsible.

By appearing to endorse these unfair and unconstitutional cuts, the governor has made the process of finding common ground much more difficult.

Forcing public servants to choose between two sharply diminished pension plans is no choice at all. It is a clearly illegal attempt to solve the problem caused by past governors and the legislature solely on the backs of teachers, caregivers and other public workers.

Public employees must be treated and heard as full partners in any substantive discussions. No one has a greater stake in solving the problem than we do. A serious problem deserves a serious effort at a solution. The unions are ready.


Comments

Public Employee Unions’ Response to Quinn’s Pension Proposal — 15 Comments

  1. The unions in WeAreOneIllinois.org, which includes the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and National Education Association (NEA), are crazy to oppose this plan.

    They believe taxpayers should pay taxes for benefits the taxpayers themselves don’t receive (assuming such taxpayers are not members of the affected public sector unions).

    The benefits reduced were never affordable and will never be affordable.

    The reductions were simply payoffs in exchange for campaign contributions and votes.

    Even with these reductions the benefits and protections are far greater than taxpayers receive, once again, assuming such taxpayers are not members of the affected public sector unions.

    No taxpayer gets their retirement plan funding guaranteed in the Illinois constitution, as is being proposed here.

    In the private sector, it’s not uncommon for benefits to existing retirees, that are no longer affordable, to be scaled back; that is not the case in this proposal. The defined benefit plan is not being changed to defined contribution.

    Many pensions plans have no annual cost of living or CPI increase.

    I could go on and on, just read the documents outlining the plan.

    Yes the benefits are being reduced but it’s still an outstanding deal.

    Bottom line, the taxpayer not in one of the affected unions, is required by the State of IL to pay taxes for public sector retirement programs far greater than they themselves will receive, at the expense of funding the taxpayers own retirement programs.

    And if this program is enacted into law, and the economy worsens, guess what, the IL State Constitution will require these public sector pension payments to be made, irregardless of affordability…that could create a real class warfare…with the entitled public sector retiree receiving benefits paid for by private sector workers who may be in a world of hurt.

  2. **Even with these reductions the benefits and protections are far greater than taxpayers receive,**

    Actually… any study that has controlled for experience and education has found the exact opposite. But hey, lets not let facts get in the way.

    **No taxpayer gets their retirement plan funding guaranteed in the Illinois constitution, as is being proposed here.**

    Who knew that teachers and other public employees were not taxpayers?!?!

    There are a lot of other silliness (and factual errors) in your comment, but the fact that you don’t think that a) public sector employees are tax payers, and b) that the constitution somehow shouldn’t apply anymore is just bizarre.

    Further – just because a situation sucks in the private sector doesn’t mean that the situation should suck in the public sector.

  3. Dave, I stated in my comments twice, “assuming such taxpayers are not members of the affected public sector unions.”
    Did I really need to state it a third time?
    And I have never heard of a retirement plan that awards pensions and healthcare benefits greater than TRS and TRIP. Quite the contrary those programs are widely regarded as overly generous. Quinn summarized some major points of the generosity of these plans in the documents he released and in his audio press conference. They are simply unaffordable and were enacted not in any financial reality but in exchange for campaign contributions and votes.

  4. When you demand too much for decades this is what happens.

    When you elect and reelect those who are clueless/or uncaring about the fact that eventually the bill has to be paid – you get what you paid for with your contributions, union dues, and volunteer time toward getting them elected.

    Those elected just kicked that expensive ball down the road over and over again. Everyone told everyone else what they wanted to here instead of the reality part.

    Illinois, Illinois that toddlin’ red ink state.

  5. Also, I did not state or infer, “the constitution somehow shouldn’t apply any more.”

    I stated, “And if this program is enacted into law, and the economy worsens, guess what, the IL State Constitution will require these public sector pension payments to be made, irregardless of affordability…that could create a real class warfare…with the entitled public sector retiree receiving benefits paid for by private sector workers who may be in a world of hurt.”

    Meaning that I disagree with that clause, as many do; not meaning it somehow shouldn’t apply any more.

    As I’m sure the commenter knows the Pension Clause added to Article XIII, Section V, of the IL State Constitution in 1970 states, “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

    My point being the pension clause applies to public (State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof) sector pensions and not private sector pensions.
    Therefore public sector pensions have protections which private sector pensions do not have.
    A lot of private sector and Federal workers have a problem with the pension protection in that they pay the pension through taxpayer dollars, yet don’t receive the protection in their own pensions.

    I didn’t say the constitution shouldn’t apply.

    I attempted to paint a picture of what would happen if the economy worsens – for example – a private sector or Federal defined contribution pension tanks – yet that employee is required by IL State law to fund the IL pubic sector pension (State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof) – such an employee would be very upset.

    I would assume the pension protection could be changed through a constitutional amendment, but I did not propose that, and Quinn is not proposing that.

  6. It is important to remember that workers contribute to their pensions. That most state employees are not part of the social security system, this is their equivalent. Workers contribute to their pension. Why is it the workers fault because they chose to work in government, contribute to their pension plan, now should face a bait and switch?
    Next, the right wing will go after the Military pensions….

  7. Two obvious disclaimers: Taxpayers include state employees and not every single pension is overly generous.

    Pat Quinn the proposer of the pension reductions is left not right wing.

    The crux of the problem is many aspects of the pension and retirement benefits were unaffordable and overly generous from day one.

    They were enriched over time without proper funding.

    Politicians, union leaders, and current retirees have benefited.

    Reforms were delayed for decades worsening the problem.

    Some public sector union leaders were able to both pay into the public pension system and retire as a higher payed union (not public) employee.

    Such union leaders are now drawing a public pension based on both their public and union (non public) service.

    Many TRS retirees received large end of career salary increases of 20% or 6% per year over 3 or 4 years, traded in 2 years of unused sick pay for 2 years of service credit, and they all receive 3% COLA annual increases.

    Existing retiree pensions will not be modified due to the pension protection clause in the Illinois Constitution which states public sector pensions can’t be diminished or impaired.

    If they could be diminished or impaired then workers whom have not yet retired would not have to sacrifice as much.

    Taxpayers should be most concerned the pensions are defined benefit and not defined contribution. For instance TRS has an 8.5% rate of return.

    If TRS achieves under 8.5% rate of return, the taxpayer revenue makes up the difference.

    A Better Government Association report this month questions if TRS fees paid to outside investment advisers were excessive, although TRS itself disputes that.

    Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF), although it’s had its share of pension spiking abuses, is set up differently and not nearly as underfunded as the State of IL pensions.

    State of Illinois Pensions:

    Teacher Retirement System (TRS)
    State University Retirement System (SURS)
    State Employee Retirement System (SERS)
    Judges Retirement System (JRS)
    General Assembly Retirement System (GARS)
    JRS is not included in Quinn’s proposal.

  8. Here are some of the many interesting articles about Illinois pensions.

    Chicago Tribune watchdog reports: Padded pensions
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/chi-gallery-padded-pensions,0,4736365.storygallery

    Chicago Tribune Pension Games
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/chi-pension-crisis-gallery,0,5880368.storygallery

    http://www.illinoisisbroke.com

    Bloomberg: Quinn Presses Illinois to Join States Reining In Pension Costs
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-20/illinois-governor-quinn-proposes-pension-contribution-increase.html

    Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford: No More Debt
    http://www.treasurer.il.gov/news/PositionPaperonDebt.pdf

    Illinois Issues: Two Sides of the Pension Debate – Marc Levine of the Illinois Policy Institute
    http://illinoisissues.uis.edu/archives/2011/10/levine.html

    Illinois Issues: Two Sides of the Pension Debate – Cinda Klickna, President of the Illinois Education Association (teacher union)
    http://illinoisissues.uis.edu/archives/2011/10/klickna.html

    Crains Chicago Business – Pension peril: Illinois’ TRS goes higher-risk with investments
    http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20111217/ISSUE01/312179972/pension-peril-illinois-trs-goes-higher-risk-with-investments

    Illinois Issues Blog – Friday, April 20, 2012 – Quinn plan would force state workers to choose between pension cuts or losing retiree health care
    By Jamey Dunn
    http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/2012/04/quinn-plan-would-force-state-workers-to.html

    The pension fund and union websites are other resources.

  9. A frequent union pension point is most state workers don’t receive social security. Another frequent union pension point is the average state pension is $x.

    Here’s what the unions fail to mention.

    So one might wonder the average social security amount?

    Average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker
    Updated 03/09/2012 12:48 PM | ID# 13

    What is the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker?

    The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was about $1,230 at the beginning of 2012.

    This amount changes monthly based upon the total amount of all benefits paid and the total number of people receiving benefits.

    http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/13/~/average-monthly-social-security-benefit-for-a-retired-worker

    $1,230 per month x 12 months = $14,760 per year

    Note that social security does not allow allow you to trade in two years of unused sick pay for two years of service credit to allow you to retire two years early, as is the case in TRS, the Teachers Retirement System of Illinois.

    Note that social security does not allow you to increase your retirement benefit substantially by receiving 6% annual salary increases over each of the last 4 years of your career for a total of 24% over 4 years, then receiving a retirement benefit equal to the average of your last 4 years income, as is the case in TRS.

    Note that social security does not provide 3% annual Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) increases, as in the case in TRS.

    Note that social security does not allow you to retire with full benefits after 35 years at the age of 55, and you can deduct from that 2 years of accumulated sick leave, so you can actually retire with full benefits after 33 years, as in the case of TRS.

    Doing that math a teacher graduates college at 22, works 33 years, retires at 55.

    Note that social security does not provide free retiree healthcare insurance, which TRS teachers are eligible for as early as the age of 55.

    90% of current retirees pay nothing for healthcare under the current pension program.

    Let’s take our hypothetical elementary gym or art teacher, works 33 years, retires at 55, retires at a salary of $100,000 in suburban Chicago, pension is $75,000, lives to 85, receives pension payments of $2,250,000 over those 30 years.

    The last statistic I saw, I think the average retiring salary after 33 years is $85,000 or so with a pension of about $65,000 or so. Doing that math it’s $1,950,000 over 30 years.

    Note the TRS statistic of the average benefit is in the $33,000 range of so, because the average retiree doesn’t work 33 years.

    And the obvious disclaimer, I am not sure how many years that average social security benefit was for.

    All courtesy of YOU, the ILLINOIS TAXPAYER.

    The unions and politicians have known all these decades just how uninformed and gullible the ILLINOIS TAXPAYER is.

    See, the majority of funding in education goes towards teacher and administrator salaries and benefits. Know you have a better idea of how that funding is being utilized.

    Education is a priority say the politicians and unions. Our kids are our future.

    What social security and pension or 401k provides you with those type of benefits?

  10. You might wonder what the maximum social security benefit is.

    Starting at 22, retiring at age 62 in 2012 after 40 years, $1,855 monthly =
    $22,260 annually.

    Starting at 22, retiring at age 65 in 2012 after 43 years, $2,310 monthly = $27,720 annually.

    Starting at 22, retiring at age 70 in 2012 after 48 years, $3,266 monthly =
    $39,192 annually.

    http://www.ssa.gov/oact/COLA/examplemax.html

    And the unions are REJECTING QUINN’s offer?

  11. Mark is on point with most people that I talk with.

    Unions are trying to ruin this wonderful country…in essence they are financial terrorists trying to take down the nation. Fair is not in their vocabulary.

    Why not limit pension & benefits to $60k/year…you should be able to live off that comfortably (and that is much better than most of us normal folk will ever see).

  12. A couple points conveniently overlooked by the supporters of pension reform.

    First, comparing a pension to Social Security makes no sense.

    SS is an income redistribution scheme, not a pension.

    It does not invest the funds paid by participants in anything that might actually earn a decent return.

    Second, the pension systems are in trouble today, not because of the level of the benefits, but because your elected officials chose to steal money legally belonging to the pension systems to pay for other no doubt worthy programs.

    This made it possible to expand programs without the tax increase that would have been needed to pay for them.

    Every taxpayer in Illinois has benefited through the decades in which the governor and legislators robbed the pension systems.

    If the required payments had been made over the last 4-5 decades, there is substantial evidence that the state would be paying in very little now, as the funds would have become largely self-sustaining.

    To fix a problem that arose from practices that benefited the entire population by screwing only the public employees now is simply wrong, unethical, and immoral.

  13. Just in case you are wondering how legally corrupt the entire pension system is in Illinois, consider two lobbyists for the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) teachers union, Steve Preckwinkle and Dave Piccioli.

    Each substitute taught for one DAY, then was able to use that single day of substitute teaching to pay into the TRS pension fund while employed as high paid lobbyists (annual salaries of 151,000 and 245,000) with the IFT.

    Michael Madigan was Speaker of the House at the time.

    Blago signed the bill which allowed for this scam.

    The deal was only available for 3 months. You see the IFT contributed over 1,000,000 to Democrats that year.
    http://www.wgntv.com/news/eveningnews/wgntv-wgn-investigation-1-day-teaching-equals-a-lifetime-teachers-pension-20111024,0,348847.story

    There was legislation proposed to end these abuses, although I am not sure if it was signed and if so, if it applies to Preckwinkle and Piccioli.

    But the point is this scam was all systems go until it was uncovered.

  14. Just in case you are wondering the level of corruption in the Chicago area, consider this report.

    The Chicago Metro area by various measures is one of the top 3 corrupt areas in the United States.

    This is according to the report, “Chicago and Illinois, Leading the Pack in Corruption. Anti-Corruption Report Number 5. February 15, 2012.

    Authored By: Dick Simpson, James Nowlan, Thomas J. Gradel, Melissa Mouritsen Zmuda, David Sterrett, and Douglas Cantor. University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Political Science and the Illinois Integrity Initiative of the University of Illinois’ Institute for Government and Public Affairs.”

    http://www.uic.edu/depts/pols/ChicagoPolitics/leadingthepack.pdf
    http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/study-chicago-and-illinois-among-most.html

  15. I was talking to some friends of mine who are teachers and I’m with them to a point.

    If I had paid into something and then found out it was going to be drastically cut, I’d be upset too.

    But retirement at 55?

    What world do you live in? COLA for your entire retirement?

    Where is all this money coming from?

    What you paid in doesn’t come close to covering all of this.

    Still, no one is immune when it comes to the empty promises of elected officials.

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