Friday, May 3, 2013

The Heroes and Villains of Illinois Pension Reform

Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan
In the aftermath of the Illinois House's passing Speaker Mike Madigan's pension reform bill on May 2nd, it's time to look at the heroes and villains.

So let's have at it!

Villain:  Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan (D) Chicago.  Whoever said the boss system was dead in Illinois?  Eat your words if you did!  The man in the photo above, Mike Madigan, may have more power in Illinois than the former mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, had.  Madigan will never call a bill to the House floor unless he knows it will pass so I was bending over on Monday morning and holding my ankles when I heard his bill was coming up for a vote.

Madigan has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the two teachers' unions, and he voted in favor of most of the pension bills that are now in the process of being ash canned.  Early Retirement Option?  Madigan voted "yes."  Compounded Cost of Living Adjustment?  Yes, Madigan was on board for that one too.

Now, all of a sudden Madigan "gets religion" and decides to screw both active and retired teachers.  My pension will be virtually frozen unless the Illinois Supreme Court decides to uphold the state constitution.  I grew up in McHenry County.  I know all about trusting judges to do the right thing!

Rep. Don Moffitt
Hero: Representative Don Moffitt (R) Gilson.  I don't always agree with Don Moffitt on his votes, but he is a true bi-partisan statesman.  Moffitt voted "no" on every pension bill that came his way.

Don represents a district where teachers don't make a lot of money.  Heck, the top salary for a teacher in Knoxville, just down the road from Gilson and Galesburg, is $60,000--and that's with a master's degree, another 30 hours of graduate credit, and 35 years of teaching experience.

There are tons of retired teachers in Knox, Warren Henderson, and Stark Counties who have pensions under $20,000 per year and who get NO Social Security benefits because they taught all their lives.  Many of these pensioners are widows.

Don Moffitt recognizes this, and he stuck by his educator constituents.  Thanks, Don!  You're more than a hero in our house--you're what our founding fathers intended a legislator to be!

Representative Tom Cross
Villain:  House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R) Oswego.

I know this guy!  He went to Yorkville High School where I taught once upon a time.  I'm not sure if Bob Evans or Bob Williams, the football coaches at Yorkville, terrorized him or what happened when he was a student, but Cross has had it in for teachers all through this pension process.

Then last night he had the nerve to say about the legislation that HE once sponsored, “In many ways, we owe those folks [teachers and other public employeed] an apology from (the) General Assembly."

Apology?  Buddy, you are in the pockets of the fat cats at the "Civic" Federation of Chicago.  The corporate millionaires and billionaires will be lining your pockets with campaign contributions now.  All they expect is that you continue to support the massive tax breaks that the state gives them and their companies.

Meanwhile teachers in Newark, Lisbon, Plattville, and other small towns in your district suffer.  I'm not sure how you sleep at night.

You know what you can do with your apology, big boy!

Rep. Jack Franks

Villain:  Representative Jack Franks (D) Marengo.

Jack Franks is another turncoat Democrat, just like Madigan.  Here's a guy who helped force me out of full-time teaching.  He voted "yes" back in 2005 to NOT appropriate the $409 million to the Teachers Retirement System.

The money was used to balance the state budget, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back as far as pension funding goes.  Teachers over 55 (my wife and myself) were forced to choose whether to retire in 2007 or stay longer and get less in pension benefits.  We got out.

Yesterday, Franks voted in favor of Madigan's bill to screw teachers.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Franks is from McHenry County, which is the most corrupt county in Illinois.  Historically, it was the McHenry County Republicans who wallowed the stink of the corruption.  It's nice to see that Franks has learned his lessons from his colleagues from the other party.

Rep. Kay Hatcher
Villain:  Representative Kay Hatcher (R) Yorkville.

Kay Hatcher may be the worst of the worst of the above villains.  She is a liar!

Back in 2010, I was filling in as the news guy at WSPY-FM radio in Plano.  The primary was coming up, and I was on a panel of reporters who asked the candidates questions in the old Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville.

Pension legislation was in the wind even then, and I asked Hatcher about what she thought of freezing the cost of living adjustments for retired teachers.

"Oh, I would never be in favor of that," Hatcher said.  "Our teachers have worked long and hard for their retirement pensions.  I would never vote to do anything to hurt our retired teachers."

Hatcher voted "yes" on Madigan's pension killing bill yesterday.

Villain:  The Chicago Tribune. Here's what the "World's Greatest Newspaper" said to teachers in its editorial in the May 2, 2013 edition.

"You'll still be getting a generous deal--benefits that all of your friends in the private sector will subsidize, but for higher than what they'll receive from Social Security.  You're still in a defined benefit retirement plan at a time when governments elsewhere are starting to shirt toward defined contributions plans similar to 401(k)s.  And of course, you can invest on your own to secure an even more comfortable retirement."

The Trib's editorial board has been spewing crap like this for years now.  What the Trib. doesn't say is that most teacher pensions in Illinois are not "generous."  The newspaper only writes about the suburban administrators and teachers who are getting six-figure pensions.  Retired downstate teachers are barely mentioned.

And by the way, Tribsters, we retired teachers paid much more for our pensions than we would have paid for Social Security benefits.  Our pensions SHOULD be higher than SS.

As far as investing goes, try investing a portion of your teaching salary when you are living in Roseville, Illinois, making $28,000 a year with a Master's degree, and  a wife and two kids.  Yeah, sure!

I'd love to teach the Tribune Editorial Board beginning journalism.  Their bias leaks from the editorial page onto the news pages every day.  They should be ashamed.


There are lots more villains who could join this club.  Governor Pat Quinn; Representative Elaine Nekritz (Madigan's toad); Representative Pam Roth, who likes to tout that she will not accept a pension from the state when she and her husband, Steve, are independently wealthy.

More on them next time and more on the unions and whether they are what Madigan says they are ("Paper Tigers") or if they are indeed representing their members.

Thanks for reading this!  Writing it has made me feel better!