Monday, December 2, 2013

Eloquence & Justifiable Anger from Roger Sanders

Eloquence & Justifiable Anger:
From Roger Sanders on the Eve of Possible Pension Reform Vote


We find ourselves in a peculiar situation.  Every year, every teacher has paid their required contribution to their pension.  For 60 years Illinois has failed to pay its share into the teacher retirement system.  Consequently, legislators and governors have shortchanged our pensions billions of dollars.

Now we find ourselves faced with the untenable prospect of today’s legislators and governor cutting the very retirement benefits for which every teacher has dutifully worked and paid for.  By our very nature, as teachers, we have a great sense of fairness, loyalty, respect for authority and an innate sense of caring, a drive to protect others from harm.  We became teachers fore altruistic reasons.  These beliefs are central to how we structure our lives, our classrooms, our schools, and the commitment we have to our students and communities.  

We do not seek conflict.  Rather, we seek solutions.  We strive to be well informed and expect that rational thinking and compassion for others are important elements in finding solutions to problems.  We also expect fair play and abiding by the law to be essential.

Legislators and the governor would have us believe that state pensions are the primary reason our state budget is in such dire straights.  We all know this is untrue.  To suggest this is the case is insulting to any informed citizen.  

Of the state’s contribution to the Teacher Retirement System this year, only 18% is for the “normal cost” of retirement benefits for current teachers.  In other words, 82% of the state’s pension payment today is to pay off the debt owed the system.  Since 1939, TRS has never received a full actuarial contribution from the General Assembly.  (Source:  Teacher Retirement System)

The real problem is that legislators over the years have not lived within their means, and even in the most recent dire economic times, have continued to spend, spend, spend.  They have used the pension systems as a credit card to fund other things.  They have placed a culture of corruption and collusion and political cronies above the welfare of the citizens of the state.

With the largest tax increase in the state’s history, we still have billions in unpaid bills and vendors waiting months for payment of services.  At the same time, the legislature continues to appropriate for new programs and give multi-million dollar tax breaks to corporations under the guise of “job creation.”  The last time I looked, jobs are still down and we continue to squander resources through corporate welfare.  A perfect example is the proposed $24 million tax break for ADM that is rumored to be approved hot on the heals of pension cuts to retirees.   The top seven executives compensation at ADM last year was $31,655,517.  Do legislators expect me to take a cut as a retiree and feel good about it when those CEO salaries are so high?  Really?  Not likely.  The General Assembly and One-Term Quinn awarded a $100 million tax break to Motorola Solutions when the CEO’s compensation was $40 million.  Legislators might like to know that Caterpillar CEO Douglas Oberhelman’s compensation last year was $17,738,076 plus, amazingly, a lump sum pension payment of $16,943,243.  Lump sum pension payments due the CEOs of Caterpillar, Boeing, Abbot-Laboratories and Crown Holdings were $129,939,430.  (Source:  SEC proxy)

The General Assembly just appropriated $70 million to purchase land for a Peotone airport.  Hardly a critical need given the fact that not one airline has yet voiced support for it.  I guess the Rockford airport must be a full capacity.  Unlikely.  Of course there is the $900,000 buyout cost for METRA CEO because he wouldn’t bend to Speaker Madigan’s wishes, or the $600,000 for doors at the Capitol.

And the list goes on, and on, and on.

There will be a tipping point.  Perhaps this is it.  As for myself, I have voted in every election for the past 44 years.  I’m a lifelong Illinois resident whose family has been in Illinois for 150 years.  I’ve been an educator in Illinois for 42 years.  My father taught school in Illinois for 53 years.  We have been invested in Illinois, and I expect Illinois to invest in my retirement as well.

Can legislators and the governor just disregard the very people that have served their communities and not expect some type of repercussion?  Are we to learn that fairness, loyalty, and respect for the law are to be discarded?  If that is the case we will find ourselves in a place we do not want to be.

I urge you to vote NO on the proposed pension cuts.


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