In the past six months, we have been steadfast in asking the governor and the legislature to deal head on with the huge challenge of fixing the public pension systems here in the state of Illinois.
We have received a strong response from viewers on both sides to our calls for action on this issue.
It is clear that there is a high degree of frustration and concern from public and teacher pensioners who fear their pension benefits will be jeopardized. There is an equal measure of concern from the general public who fear that the $93 billion pension liability will stifle future spending in other sectors including education and public safety.
The frustration doesn't rest just with the public on this tough issue.
The tirade on the House floor in May from Mike Bost, a Republican House Member, reflects the deep frustration and division in the legislature as well.
I believe that this Friday's special session that was called by Governor Quinn to deal exclusively with pension reform gives us a chance to finally fix the pensions.
I call on the legislature to take a bold step and pass the reform legislation proposed this week by Rep. Elaine Nekritz from Northbrook. Her proposed legislation would include a complete overhaul of the four major state pension plans that include rank and file workers, elected officials, university employees and teachers outside of Chicago.
One of the major components of this reform would give the pensioner a choice: take a 3 percent compounded increase in their pensions yearly and give up health insurance, or accept a much reduced cost of living increase and still have access to health insurance plans.
This legislation would also increase the retirement age to 67, and require the state to plug the under funding hole in the overall plan over the next several years to insure its stability.
If adopted, this plan would result in these pensions being entirely funded within 30 years and save as much as $65 billion for taxpayers in that time span.
Many doubt the resolve of the legislature to deal with pension reform before the November election. I say we really don't have a choice.
Illinois deserves better.
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