A Freshman and Ethical Representative: Robert Martwick of the 19th District
Various legislators’ justifications and rationalizations for their positive vote on Madigan’s new version of SB1 have been piling up in my incoming mail like loose debris on a west-Texas fence line. Are you getting them too?
Most of mine begin with “it was a tough choice” or “one of the hardest decisions in my life.”
Sitting here at the conclusion of their ends-justifies-the-means frenzy on Black Tuesday, we can certainly agree. On the other hand, “tough” may describe their December 3rd position, but it will quite possibly assure more than a singular moment for many other public sector working families. Even years of tough or desperate choices...
Of course, the SB1 legislators will always have the Tribune and the Civic Federation to extol the action taken on Black Tuesday, but in keeping with my continued search for a new Representative or a new Senator, I’d like to keep a list of possible new faces places to reside in Illinois.
Representative Martwick feels the need to “cover” for his fellows in the General Assembly in the official position statement he released earlier this week, but his own position is ethically refreshing. For his complete communiqué, read to the end of his beginning statements. Thanks.
Pension Reform Statement from Representative Martwick
On Tuesday, the Illinois legislature approved a plan to change the state's pension system. This plan was passed by the narrowest of margins in both chambers and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Quinn. I voted NO on this legislation. Below, you will find my analysis of the bill and the explanation for my vote. If you have any questions about how this legislation might affect you, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
The legislature has been working non-stop to find a solution to the pension crisis. Every single member of the legislature is committed to finding a solution that is constitutional, addresses the unfunded liability, and preserves the pension system and the benefits earned by employees. Everyone recognizes that we must fix the problem. However, there are fundamental disagreements about the right way to accomplish those goals. While I thought this bill had some very positive aspects, it still fell far short of what was needed to accomplish the goals in a fair and respectful manner.
Why I voted NO:
1. I gave my word that employees would have a seat at the table.
There is only one indisputable fact: The employees did not create the problem. This pension crisis was created by former governors and legislators who skipped payments and borrowed against the system. Meanwhile, the employees made every single required contribution. It is also indisputable that if the government had made the required payments, there would be no problem. The system would be fully funded and sustainable. Now the system is broken and the only way to fix it is through a combination of changes that include cuts to benefits that were promised to people who didn't cause the problem. I have always maintained that these employees have earned a right to a seat at the negotiating table. They should have, at the minimum, been included in discussions about the solution, since it is their money that will be taken to fix the problem. When I ran for this office, I promised that I would demand that our friends and neighbors who are public employees, and who were without fault, be given the respect that they earned and a seat at the table. They were not.
2. The legislation was not afforded a democratic process.
This bill was crafted by a group of committed and hard working legislators with only the best of intentions. Nonetheless, the details of this bill were not released to the rest of the legislature, or any party affected until less than 24 hours before we were scheduled to vote. I love democracy and I believe that we have the best system of government in the world. The only way to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of democracy are to accept the issues that go along with it. This bill is a massive bill that affects every single person in our state. It affects employees, tax payers, students, seniors and businesses. We should have been given more time to discuss and debate this bill. That's the process and the responsibility and I cannot accept it being shirked.
3. This bill stripped collective bargaining rights from public employees.
I am a strong supporter of the rights of ALL Americans to collectively bargain for a better workplace. I believe that this is a fundamental right afforded by democracy and it should not be diminished. This bill would have stripped the rights of employees to collectively bargain pension benefits. Recently, scores of Illinoisans boarded buses and rode to Madison Wisconsin to stand alongside public employees whose collective bargaining rights were under attack by Gov. Scott Walker. I cannot in good conscience vote for the same type of action here in Illinois.
4. This legislation may cause great harm to the state university system.
A top tier state university system is critical to the future of our state. More than simply a school, it provides both educational opportunities and a chance for a better life to all citizens of Illinois. It is also an economic engine that brings enormous amounts of research and development dollars to our state economy. Professor Jeffrey Brown is a University of Illinois economist who received his PhD from MIT. He is one of the very brightest minds and most respected scholars on the topics of pension administration. Basically, he knows more about pension systems than ANYONE. He stated publicly that this bill will make it nearly impossible for the University of Illinois to attract and retain top professors and researchers to the school. The end result will be a profound diminishment of the university's ranking amongst the nations best schools. That means a lesser education for our children, which means fewer opportunities for them to compete with college graduates from other states. Professor Brown offered a plan that he believed would have secured the pension systems without gutting the university. Yet, despite the fact that he is clearly one of the brightest minds on this subject, his plan was very quickly dismissed.