Letters to the Editor 9/8/11
For the most part, the story on pensions was balanced [see “Pinchin’ pensions,” by Rachel Wells, Sept. 1] although I would like to have seen more emphasis on the full funding by the employees and the partial funding on behalf of the state.
You have two misstatements of fact. On the top of page 13, you wrote “can retire at age 60 after working for 8 years to receive their full benefits” and “can retire at age 67 after working 10 years to receive their full benefits.” Wrong. With only 8 or 10 years they will not receive their “full benefits.” They will receive their “earned benefits,” i.e, the benefits they have earned to date at the time of retirement, which is calculated by a percentage times the number of years worked.
The use of the term “full benefits,” which has a very specific meaning in each of the state pension systems, is, at best misleading and, worse case, a flat lie. This misstatement helps to perpetuate the myth that state employees get generous benefits for very little service.
One thing I would like to have seen in the story is a study on where the various systems would be today had they been fully funded as required each year. I’d expect that such a chart would show most of the funds very nearly fully funded.
Other than the “stick it to the employee” SB 512, there was no presentation on any other alternatives for fully funding the pension systems. The blunt truth is that the state will have to raise taxes sooner or later and dedicate that revenue stream to paying back the missing pension money.
Another thing that would have been nice to have included is a more historical perspective on past underfunding, going all the way back to either 1850, 1910 or 1950. That history of underfunding is why the pension language was put into the Illinois Constitution.
Finally, while covering the history and the various changes previously made to the pension systems, you should have noted that every change has only applied to new hires. This creates a very strong presumption of legal precedent that you cannot change benefits for existing employees.
I am a retired state employee under the SERS system. This isn’t going to affect me, other than the possibility of higher taxes. I won’t be happy paying more taxes now to fund the pensions (since I already faithfully made my employee portion of the pension payments already). But I recognize it has to be done.
VETO GAMBLING EXPANSION
Why is the private sector joining with a few government leaders receiving large campaign contributions from gambling companies in seeking radical expansion of gambling in Illinois in 2011? This year represents an economy out of control with many people suffering the effects of a sustained recession.
Now the private sector gambling owners are teaming up with a few state legislators and other political leaders to push radical expansion of gambling in Illinois, including the first of what will be many casinos in Chicago.
The Illinois General Assembly passed last spring SB744, the latest gambling expansion bill establishing casinos in Chicago, Park City (near Waukegan), Danville, Rockford and an undisclosed location in South Cook County. In addition slots at Illinois’ tracks, including at the state fairgounds in Springfield, and expanding slots at the existing ten casinos are slated to occur. The proposed bill will receive a final yes or no from Governor Quinn in early September.
Gambling owners are doing very well. Since 2000 the gambling companies have made between $82 and $119 per admission in gross receipts. Admissions last month bolstered by the new Des Plaines casino were almost 1.5 million people. Last month’s gross revenue was $92 per admission.
Gambling companies will never be satisfied with whatever expansion will be offered to them. Next year or in five or ten years they will be back for more with their willing partners, tax-hungry local and state government.
The Task Force to Oppose Gambling for Chicago has asked Governor Quinn to do the right thing and veto SB744, a very bad public policy move.
Task Force to Oppose Gambling in Chicago
CORREX Rita Tarr Scheibe, quoted in last week’s cover story, “Pinchin’ pensions,” has a salary of almost $45,000 a year as a schoolteacher, not $48,000 as reported. She was executive director of Contact Ministries, but at Catholic Charities she was crisis office supervisor, not executive director.