Letters to the Editor 2/28/13
I read with great pleasure your article, “Housing with hope: Hope Springs Apartments helps build independence for tenants with mental disabilities,” by Scott Faingold, Feb. 21.
Eight years ago I was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder. I went from an advocate for seniors and a village trustee to someone swimming in the chaos of a mental health disorder. I learned in the beginning not to discuss my disability because of our society’s lack of compassion and understanding. I have since then begun sharing.
I have been blessed with the extraordinary care of the SIU Department of Psychiatry. Their support to me and my family has been enormous. In addition, I was afforded the pleasure of working with Trisha Malott, executive director of the SIU Community Support Network. Together with Trisha, my wonderful psychiatrist and my family, I am learning to redefine my life, discovering my new path and purpose. I wish all the new residents of Hope Springs Apartments my best wishes. Let the journey begin.
PAYING THE COST
I have a friend who recently bought a $300,000 home. Fortunately for him, he has a 30-year mortgage that will allow him to pay it off as he has funds.
I have another friend who bought a new Cadillac Escalade ESV. Like my other friend, he didn’t have all the money up front. The dealership helped him get a loan from a bank here in town. It’s for 84 months.
Most of us are aware the state has an unfunded pension obligation of $96 billion. To me, it seems very similar to the situations of my friends: all of that $96 billion is not due at once. It is not all due this year or next year or in 10 years. It’s like trying to say the United States Postal Service is losing money, when it is actually making a profit. The only reason it appears to be losing money is it is being forced to fund its retirement plan 75 years into the future due to actions of the 2006 Congress. I doubt many, if any, of your employers fund your retirement 75 years into the future. Sadly, many companies have bankrupted the retirement funds of many American workers.
I am a State of Illinois employee and proud AFCSME member. I truly don’t mind doing my fair share to help alleviate the fiscal mess created by our politicians over the past 30 years. But I refuse to fall on my sword for Mike Madigan, Pat Quinn, Jim Ryan, Jim Thompson or any of the representatives and senators who have betrayed not only thousands of state employees but the millions of Illinois residents with their self-serving misappropriation of monies entrusted to them. Our leaders have been caught red-handed. But instead of begging for mercy and paying for their crimes, they are trying to frame the state employees.
PAY TO STAY SAVINGS
The state pension system shortfall can be better addressed by giving incentives for employees nearing retirement to remain on the job longer. This can be accomplished by introducing an optional package to offer potential retirees. The employee would be given the choice to retire as scheduled, or voluntarily defer their retirement date by a minimum of three to five years or more and the state would pay that employee 10-15 percent above their current salary through each of these additional years. In that case, the employee would eventually retire under the old formula without any further modification.
Is it not preferable to pay such employees thousands of dollars in incentive pay annually from the state revenue fund to remain on the job rather than tens of thousands of dollars of retirement pay annually from an underfunded pension system? Under this plan the state can pay workers with many years of experience to remain on the job longer and at the same time preserve a highly trained and functional workforce, all the while acknowledging their contribution to state government at a time when too many talented and skilled long-term employees have been running for the exits. If only one in four potential retirees chose this incentive, the savings no doubt would be in the many millions of dollars.