The Pantagraph

Taxpayers losing, too, in state pension mess

Monday, June 24, 2013

As Illinois legislators make another attempt to find a pension solution, it’s interesting and instructive to take a look at the messages being presented by the public employee unions.
The unions have made the argument that their members are not responsible for the state’s unfunded pension obligation and they shouldn’t be punished for the decision of the General Assembly and state leaders. They have also presented arguments that give the impression changes in the cost of living adjustment given to retirees will severely diminish the economic status of those folks.
It’s a powerful argument. But as with many political statements, there’s a little more to it than the sound bites.
That’s not to say that rank-and-file public employees don’t have a beef. There is no doubt that leadership — both political and union leadership — has not served them well.
For starters, unions blaming the pension holidays solely on the General Assembly is disingenuous. The union leaders supported and signed off on the 2005 pension holiday. They agreed to it, in part, in order to save cuts in education and other public funding that would have likely resulted in job losses. Also, many of the unions supported the officials politically that they are criticizing today.