Given how long and loudly we've been shouting for Illinois public pension reform, you might expect us to enthusiastically endorse any effort to fix what's broken. If only we were offered more than window dressing that threatens to do little good and much damage to the Illinois Constitution. Proposed constitutional Amendment 49 appearing on your Nov. 6 ballot is being sold as a way to keep lawmakers from sweetening already unsustainable state pensions to curry favor with powerful public employee unions. In truth it will merely muddy up the constitution, while having no impact on the state's $85 billion and growing pension hole. The change would require 60 percent approval for any pension increase at the state or local level rather than a simple majority. The measure sounds good, but it does little more than give political cover in an election year to members of the General Assembly who failed to make the tough choices necessary to fix the pension mess. (Hats off to Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who was one of only a handful of lawmakers who refused to sign onto this dodge.) Not only is the amendment too late to do anything about the current mess, its future effectiveness is in serious question. Consider, for example, that such pension sweeteners have been approved by healthy enough margins to routinely survive this new test. Remember, too, that this amendment includes "local" pensions. Do you want the state to usurp local authority to set benefits for employees? Finally, no one is sure exactly what the amendment will accomplish. Some say it will enable the General Assembly to make wholesale changes in pensions for current employees and pensioners that are currently believed to be unconstitutional. It wouldn't be the first time a measure crafted by Speaker Michael Madigan did more, or less than advertised. And did we mention that a bunch of money is being spent by the cash-strapped state to explain an amendment that appears to be both confusing and unnecessary. Senate candidate John Bambenek found the ballot question so confusing he joined a lawsuit challenging its validity. "This amendment was written by the Dark Sith Lord Michael Madigan himself with some of the smartest people in the state and they couldn't write something people could understand?" he asked. " I get that Madigan and his Chicago friends want to stick it to us, but could they do us the courtesy of doing it in a way we can understand? This ballot question and the amendment itself are incomprehensible gibberish." If lawmakers had put before voters a measure that simply and clearly lifted constitutional restrictions on changingemployee pensions, we would gladly have backed it. We got this mess instead. Don't be fooled into believing this fixes anything. We suggest you vote no.
Today is Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today. 1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass. 1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links. 1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned. 1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today. 1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.