Errand Boys (Representatives Morrison and Ives)
In the last dark scenes of Apocalypse Now (Scorsese’s disturbing tribute to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), the character Kurtz chides the calculated, diminutive act of his would-be assassin by reminding him that he is no more than “an errand boy sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill.” Kurtz mutually belittles the soldier and his ordering officers for their shameless self-advancement and intentional ignorance of the truth. It would seem, in this case, that Illinois political life mirrors art.
The Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think-tank with strong ties to ALEC (see earlier blogs) and offices in Chicago and Springfield, has sent two errand boys to do their bidding in the 2013 Illinois General Assembly. The IPI’s design, as it has always been, is to free all business from government interference; in fact espousing, “when free market ideas are turned into law” all will be better for people (http://illinoispolicy.org/content/?section=456&t=About-Us). The IPI also explains its mission as one of advancing education policies, but only of a certain kind as evidenced by their active membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Exchange. Indeed, their current executive vice president Kristina Rasmussen has written and presented model ideas for pension reform for ALEC (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Illinois_Policy_Institute).
Now, with HB 3303, we can see just how that pension reform would look if ALEC or the Illinois Policy Institute’s Tea Party errand boys could get some traction. Actually, to understand how radical and far right these two sponsors are we might want to look at the bill.
HB3303 was introduced by Representative Tom Morrison (Palatine) in February and co-sponsored by Representative Jeanne Ives (Wheaton). Don’t be fooled. The bill was not written by Representative Morison or Ives – they’re mere errand boys. The real clerks were Jon Tillman and Kristina Rasmussen at the IPI. In fact, even Representative Ives’ site authenticates the true authors as the IPI. Probably for many smart reasons, no one else has signed on.
That does not deter the IPI from championing its own far-right bill. John Tillman, the CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, made several exclamations as to the worthiness of the HB3303 on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight during a recap of the Governor’s budget speech this March. Although Ralph Martire, the director for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability pointed out very likely unconstitutional issues with the proposed bill, Tillman overrode the former’s concerns with a loud “We’ll see,” and That’s debatable”
The bill’s brief description is a “Pension Service Credit Freeze.” Within HB3303, the bill “Provides that no additional service credit may be accrued and no automatic increase in a retirement annuity shall be received for all five state-funded services. Provides that the pensionable salary of an active participant may not exceed that individual's pensionable salary as of the effective date. Provides that State-funded retirement systems shall establish self-directed retirement plans for all active participants and all employees hired on or after the effective date. Provides that all active participants shall have the option of participating in a self-directed retirement plan. Provides that these changes are controlling over any other law. Effective immediately. “
Regardless of the pension protection clause in the Illinois Constitution, “diminish or impair” seem to be the very themes of HB3303, but that does not deter CEO Tillman. He’s groomed Ives philosophically and monetarily as she ran for office, and she has been ever grateful for his economic support and the support he gives to many state Republicans (http://homerlockportillinoisteaparty.org/2012/05/29/message-to-ilgop-candidates-listen-to-what-people-say-but-watch-what-they-do/).
As a Tea Party candidate, she welcomes the opportunity to read IPI statements at gatherings: (http://ives.ilhousegop.org/2013/02/illinois-policy-institute-proposes-plan-to-fix-states-budget-pension-problems/). For Ives, Illinois has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. And pensions are a spending problem. Ives announces in her Tribune editorial piece of March 8th, she would "circle that number (budget) with my red Sharpie and write, 'Check your math.'" Ives goes on to boast that her and Morrison's plan would put $7 billion back in the people's pockets and reduce the unfunded pension liability by half. By half? Look again at HB3303, Rep. Ives, and "Check your constitution." After all, you swore an oath to uphold it.
As for Representative Morrison, running a business that capitalizes on disaster cleanup, he has probably come to the perfect occupation as a legislator in Illinois. On the other hand, some analogies in interviews seem a bit simplified. Comparing the pension issues in Illinois to the business design for disaster cleanup, Representative Morrison reports that you can’t fix a dry wall problem while water is “still gushing in – the building’ condition will worsen until the underlying issue gets resolved”
Of course, his IPI simplified plan to eliminate any increases in pension liabilities despite contractual promises might indicate whether or not Representative Morrison’s own business earns a positive rating from the customers or businesses he services. What contract?
Meanwhile, Mr. Tillman and the Illinois Policy Institute enjoy a curious presence on WTTW, where the CEO holds court with pronouncements like “HB3303 is a good bill” despite even Carol Marin’s somewhat astonished silence. And, of course, Tillman likes to promote his organization’s non-partisan, non-philosophical approach – it’s all just good business, my friend. And you with a pension stand in his way. Beyond the IPI’s site endorsement of the Civic Committee’s promotions, Mr. Tillman is promoting the “Pension Project” – an attempt to avoid paying what is (thank you, Helen Kinney and Henry Green) due to workers in Illinois. His argument is that pensions are costing too much across the nation, not that Illinois has created an unfunded liability. Representatives Morrison and Ives believe him. Pensions are the problem, not the underfunding – freeze them all and get out of the business all together. Besides, Tillman has other objectives to accomplish. As soon as he completes this task, he wants to move on to California. Find new errand boys. It’s all part of the ALEC strategic plan for the country