By Jeanne Ives
December 17, 2013
On Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune published the editorial, “Grand old … impostors / Why did so many Republicans reject pension reform?” I wish the paper would have called me. While I have made statements explaining my “no” vote against Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s revised pension reform bill on the House floor and via news releases, I am happy to explain my vote, again.
The states cited in the editorial in which Republicans led pension reform included Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana.
First, none of these states had as severe a funding problem as Illinois or as generous a pension system.
Second, it is important to realize that the nuances of the pension reform bill matter more than the talking points put out by Illinois General Assembly staffers and the media. The plan offers marginal reforms that put retiree pensions in jeopardy, are unaffordable for taxpayers and erode our ability to balance budgets fairly. We do need pension reform immediately, but it is a stretch to say that this plan “Go(es) big” on pension reform or is the “solid, substantial, heavy-on-savings reform plan,” called for by the Chicago Tribune editorial board. Perhaps Tribune readers should ask why the board flip-flopped on its definition of what kind of reform is necessary for Illinois. Who are the real impostors?
By contrast, Republicans would be happy to implement a plan like Michigan’s, which moved everyone to a 401(k); or Indiana’s, which is a true hybrid plan with a conservative return assumption; or a plan such as Wisconsin’s, which ended collective bargaining for everything except pay. Additionally, Wisconsin has fully funded public sector pensions. The Tribune invoked Wisconsin. I voted to demand we get to the same place as Wisconsin. If only the Tribune editorial board would match its big talk to the corresponding policy changes.
The Tribune asks us to vote on a plan drafted by Madigan behind closed doors. The Tribune asks us to vote on a major piece of legislation with just 24 hours for bill review. The Tribune asks us to vote for a plan whose sponsor couldn’t explain or defend the numbers. The Tribune asks us to vote for a plan in which the 401(k) language would allow the state to take back private property, which was revealed as I questioned the speaker on the floor.
I refuse to adopt the attitude that any bill will do regardless of its principles and content. Decades of voting on talking points has led to this insolvency.
Republicans, while in the superminority, still are in a position to make the case for a plan that will put Illinois back on a course to fiscal stability and will ensure retirement security for state workers by drawing a line in the sand.
The Tribune editorial board is playing politics, taking “the-best-we-can-do” approach. It’s not the best we can do, since it’s not good enough. The Tribune may bend to the will of Madigan and provide political cover to the same people who brought us the most unfunded pension systems in the country, but I will not. The GOP’s stance in the Illinois General Assembly is to uphold fiscal responsibility and strong policy at every decision point. Let’s not retreat from this mission.
Under Illinois Democrats, the state’s fiscal security, free-market productivity and ability to provide necessary services are in a freefall. Republicans who have the political courage to place Illinois back on a sustainable path currently control neither the House, Senate nor the governor’s office. Until the people of Illinois find the wisdom and the will to change that equation, Republicans in the House will struggle to arrest Illinois’ march into insolvency, inefficiency and constitutional disintegration. It remains my conviction that the people of Illinois will see through the political fog and respond accordingly.
Every vote we take affirms or denies our children the liberties we have been afforded.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, represents the 42nd District.