Monday, May 23, 2011

Hundreds of protesters target legislatures supporting cuts in public employee pensions

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The State of Illinois is in a mess. One of the causes is the enormous pension responsibilities placed on the state. I know that many public employees rely on those pensions for retirement because they don't qualify for social security. IT was a trade off. But I don't think anyone ever expected those pensions to rise to astronomical rates.

Here's a great analysis of the state's pension problems from the Chicago Civic Federation, which opposes much of the proposed budget cuts by Gov. Pat Quinn, but supports the proposal to pay for pensions from the state's operating budget.

About 300 protesters lined the street on 151st and 90th Avenue in Orland Park outside of the offices of Illinois Legislator Rep. Kevin McCarthy. They brought out a huge crowd, although some believe it's just a partisan political effort to embarrass the Democrats while ignoring that Republicans have been equally responsible for causing our statewide pension mess.

Should a teacher, for example, who retires make more than $100,000 a year in pension benefits? That's a little excessive, but typical of the problem the state pension faces.

Illinois’ overall liability is $85.6 billion to five pension programs which serve approximately 174,600 retirees:

- The State Employee Retirement System: $20,107.6 million
- Downstate Teachers Retirement Systems: $45, 969.4 million
- State Universities Retirement System: $17,998.9 million
- Judges Retirement System: $1,296.2 million
- General Assembly Retirement System: $197.1 million

When combined with retiree health care obligations, Illinois will have more than $140 billion in unfunded obligations by the end of Fiscal Year 2011. Without reform, the state can only pay 38.3 percent of what is expected to owe future retirees. 7% of Illinois population benefits from pensions that are supported by 100% of taxpayers.

We need to do something besides imposing more taxes on the taxpayers and filling the pension hole that way.

-- Ray Hanania

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