Saturday, May 9, 2015

Back to Square One, which wasn’t a pleasant place for us to be to begin with

I was kind of hoping that the Supreme Court of Illinois would somehow figure out a way to uphold the measure approved by the General Assembly and then-Gov. Pat Quinn back in 2013 to resolve the problems the state faced in funding its pension programs.

As it was, it took the Legislature several years past what was supposed to be the breaking point for the political people to come up with the solution they enacted two years ago.

BUT THE SUPREME Court on Friday went along with the hints it had been giving out – it overturned the previous legislative action on the grounds that it violated provisions of the state constitution that protect the retirement benefits that state workers receive.

No retroactive changes of any kind; not even if you want to try to claim you don’t have the money to afford the retirement rates that had previously been arranged.

So now we can resurrect the $105 billion shortfall in funding needed to balance out the retirement funds for state workers and educators at both public schools and state colleges. As if Illinois didn’t have enough financial problems to deal with, this issue is back!

Let’s be honest; there’s no way our Legislature is about to concoct a solution to this problem by the end of this legislative session – which is barely more than three weeks off.

AND THE LONGER the issue lingers, the greater the size of the problem grows.

If anything, it is made worse by the fact that the little bit of guidance the political people received from the Supreme Court’s ruling was to swipe at the Legislature for not going along with Quinn’s desires to extend the state income tax hike that withered away at the end of 2014.

Of course, current Gov. Bruce Rauner always made it clear he wanted that allegedly temporary tax hike to go away and the General Assembly’s membership never had the political backbone to address the issue.

Which is why there is going to be a serious shortfall, particularly since so much of Rauner’s own political agenda is to cut at programs and services whose existence serves to benefit the agendas of people not sympathetic to his views.

I CAN’T SEE Rauner coming to his senses on this issue and accepting the reality that he’s going to have to put some attention on the idea of raising new revenue sources in order for the state to meet its financial and moral obligations.

Because the longer the pension system remains a mess, the more and more its demands will sap up the entirety of what revenues the state of Illinois has.

But there are also many legislators of both major political persuasions who also don’t want to have to address this issue; it’s really not fair to say that Rauner is all to blame for the way this mess will linger.

I do find it humorous the way some political people are suggesting now that perhaps the solution to this issue is to amend the Illinois Constitution – so as to take out the provisions that require retirement benefits to remain the same.

CHANGING THE STATE Constitution is something that takes many years to do – time the state simply no longer has. This is a problem that was created by the inaction of many governors throughout the decades (you can’t blame it on just one political party).

We need serious, painful solutions to this problem that are going to wind up hurting the political interests of many people.

And we definitely need to quit thinking of this issue as one of a problem caused by those ‘damned retirees’ and the benefits they earned with their labor throughout the years.


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