The Illinois pension system faces difficult decisions. |
Our Legislature in Springfield has failed to pay its side of the obligation for nearly four decades and now teachers and other public employees are being asked to foot the bill in the form of reduced or eliminated pension benefits.
We can solve the pension crisis in the following ways:
-- Step 1: We must respect and abide by the Illinois Constitution. The Constitution states, "Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired."
Simply slashing benefits without negotiating with state workers is not only unconscionable, it is unconstitutional. Legislators in Springfield caused this problem and they have the power to fix it. Pulling the rug out from under hardworking public servants like police, teachers, and firefighters, (some of whom aren't able to receive social security) is illegal and immoral.
-- Step 2: We must ensure that Springfield pays its portion of the pension obligation on time and in full every year. We can't continue to kick the problem down the road without a solution in sight or our financial situation will continue to decline.
-- Step 3: We must prevent Springfield from passing their debt obligations on to our local school districts. Local school districts and their students are already suffering massive budget shortages due to inadequate education funding -- this only makes the problem worse. Our students -- our children -- deserve better.
-- Step 4: We need tax fairness in Illinois. An individual making minimum wage pays the same tax rate that millionaire stock traders in Chicago pay -- that's not fair and it's not good for our state. A tax structure similar to the structures found in Iowa or Wisconsin takes the burden of funding public education off of local property taxes and helps create more education equality in the process. This will go a long way towards bringing our state's fiscal health back to acceptable levels and help to address the fact that students in our schools receive less funding per pupil than students in places like Cook County.
Step 5: We need to eliminate the huge corporate tax giveaways that big business has been able to broker. We gave away roughly $80 million to Sears just before they closed dozens of stores, laid off numerous employees, and left the state. This short-sighted corporate welfare causes serious harm to our state's finances and puts our small businesses, who can't broker sweetheart deals with legislators, at a serious disadvantage.
In addition, there are five corporate tax loopholes identified by the Responsible Budget Coalition (none of which create a significant number of jobs or provide material benefit to the people of Illinois) that, if eliminated, could create $696 million in revenue for our state.
Mike Smiddy of Hillsdale is the Democrat candidate Illinois House District 71.