Even though the legislature is in recess, last week two of the committees I serve on held hearings. On Tuesday, I attended JCAR’s monthly meeting in Chicago and on Wednesday the Personnel & Pensions Committee held a hearing to discuss an overview of the State Pension Systems and the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.
Personnel & Pensions Committee Hearing
The committee hearing was an overview of the situation in which we find our Tier II pension systems failing to meet certain benefit provisions of Federal law. While representatives of the state pension systems discussed their current benefit levels as they relate to Tier II benefit requirements, the Chicago Teacher Pension Fund did not participate in the hearing. After calling them out for their failure to appear, I subsequently sat down with representatives of CTPF. We cleared the air and agreed that CTPF must be part of the conversation if we’re going to fix this problem. I received assurances that CTPF will be a full participant in future hearings, and I’m looking forward to their input.
For a brief background, in 2010, the legislature passed pension reform that shifted new hires to a different defined benefit structure than was currently in place. The “Tier II” pension was meant to be a more sustainable pension plan from the standpoint of cost to the state, with more modest benefits, a less generous COLA adjustment and a longer time for members to become vested. Now, though, we are up against a different issue where our Tier II pension system may not meet Federal requirements known as “safe harbor” provisions, which are rules that ensure that employees are receiving a pension benefit no less than they’d receive if they were part of the Social Security system. Changes must be made to bring the Tier II benefit structure into compliance with safe harbor, and this hearing was the first of many we will be holding over the summer to discuss two bills (H.B. 4098 and H.B. 4099) which have been introduced in an effort to begin to work on a solution.
While Tier II contributions are far more than would otherwise be needed if this were the only pension system in the state, these contributions also serve to subsidize those in the old, Tier I system. Those contributions are going toward paying off the debt accumulated over many years as promises were made (while contributions needed to keep those promises weren’t made) which led Illinois to a condition where our public pensions are the worst funded in the nation, and where 25% of our general revenue now goes to paying off that debt. You can hear more about that in my comments and questions here.
This will not be a simple fix. Since our Constitution does not allow for benefits to be diminished or impaired, we find ourselves in a situation where we have to determine how best to comply with safe harbor at the lowest cost to the state, and then figure out how we’re going to pay for it.
But we have to consider another aspect of this, and that’s the human aspect. We need to establish a pension system that provides a reasonable and sustainable retirement benefit, one which will allow us to attract and retain talented men and women to teach our children, maintain public safety and do all the other things that it’s the government’s job to do.
Having said all that, as I say in this article, for the first time since I’ve been in the General Assembly, I think there’s an actual attempt to be serious about solving what I believe is the major financial problem facing this state. It hangs over us like the sword of Damocles and we can’t continue to avoid it.
Hot Topic of the Week:
JCAR held its monthly meeting last week in Chicago. As I’ve mentioned before, JCAR is the bipartisan legislative panel that considers rules proposed by state agencies. In last week’s meeting we considered agency rules on a number of issues including daycare licensing rules, coming into compliance with federal environmental requirements, and licensing for midwives.
It’s frustrating to hear the same story from many of the state agencies which came before us that they hadn’t discussed these rules with stakeholders, those who would be affected by the rule before issuance. We’ve seen far too much of this and it’s getting worse, as the General Assembly seems all too willing to abdicate its responsibility while granting the Pritzker administration far too much authority to act through administrative agencies and rulemaking.
In this month’s meeting, the issue of healthcare for those here and not eligible for Medicaid came before the committee. As I’ve said before, this issue should be resolved through legislation in the General Assembly and not administered by agency emergency rulemaking. A side note to this is that these programs have been in place for some time, and the legislation enacting them provided for permanent rulemaking. This only reinforces the fact that the emergency rulemaking contained in this year’s bill (along with the suspension of the 24 month prohibition on duplicate rulemaking) is not a true “emergency”, but came about because the administration couldn’t keep a lid on enrollment and costs until it got out of control.
The members of JCAR were unanimous in criticizing this process and the Governor’s proposed rules. This article does a good job laying out the objections on both sides.
Additionally, JCAR objected to several rules, including passing a resolution critical of the Illinois EPA for delaying proposing rules that could keep Illinois from receiving Federal infrastructure dollars. You can read more about our frustrations here.
Mobile Office Hours at the McHenry County Fair!
It’s McHenry County Fair time, I’m going to have a booth right there on the midway. On Wednesday, August 2nd, we’ll be having mobile office hours from 11:00-4:00. Stop on by and say hello, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. See you at the Fair!
Transportation Services Are Available for Seniors and Disabled
MCRide Dial-a- Ride is a great way to get around McHenry County. Whether you need transportation for work, school, shopping, medical appointments or just to visit a friend, MCRide provides an affordable and flexible way to travel! It is one of the best kept secrets in McHenry County.
As a dial-a-ride program, MCRide service is a coordinated countywide paratransit service, and vehicles do not travel in a fixed route each day. Riders schedule their trips in advance and the vehicle provides curb-to-curb service from the rider’s desired pick-up and drop-off destinations. MCRide is a shared-ride service, so vehicles may make stops for other passengers.
Our office has fare cards available to District 63 residents, and it is our policy to make these cards available only to the disabled and senior citizen population. We can offer 5 cards per constituent per month at no charge. A fare card is good for a single-ride from one point in the MCRide service area to another point in the service area. MCRide fare cards are NOT valid on Metra, CTA, Pace fixed bus routes (e.g., 806, 807, 808, 550) or any other dial-a-ride program.
For more information on this program, including hours, fares and contact information, visit the McHenry County Department of Transportation’s website:
If you would like to obtain cards from our office, please call us at 815-880-5340.
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