Group says state pension problem is beyond repair

November 14, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago said the state's pension problems cannot be fixed and collecting money for future pensions amounts to fraud.

In an effort to light some fire under lawmakers as they prepare to take up pension reform in January, the Civic Committee said if drastic measures are not taken soon the money teachers or firefighters put in today will not be there when they retire.

It is about time for some political courage in Springfield, the group said.

State employees make up five percent of Illinois' population. Yet funding pensions for public workers is something that affects everyone, considering the pension system is under funded by millions of dollars.

"What about the rest of the people on the state?" Civic Committee President and former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner said. "They are suffering all because this whole pension business has been mismanaged from the start."

It is time to manage the pension issue, according to Fahner.

In a letter sent to the governor and state leaders, he used strong language as he challenged lawmakers to fix what he called a crisis that is so severe it is unfixable without real reform.

"It is a hard vote to make they have not had the courage before and why now," Fahner said.

Governor Pat Quinn said he appreciates the Civic Committee's alarm. Both he and Republican Leader Tom Cross said they plan to work together to pass true reform.

Whether lawmakers endorse the Civic Committee's recommendations is a different story.

Fahner proposed eliminating all cost of living increases, instituting a pensionable salary cap, increasing the retirement age to 67 and shiftingannual costs to local employers over 12 years or more.

Union leaders call these suggestions unconstitutional.

"We have noted we want to do more and we have to talk about the options but burden didn't cause the problem," spokesman for theAmerican Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Anders Lindall said.

AFSCME said it will take legal action if any of the Civic Committee's proposals are passed by lawmakers.

The union said its members are willing to give more if the state pays its fair share to pension programs and if corporate tax loopholes are closed.

The General Assembly takes up reform in January with many lame duck lawmakers.

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