Bill Brady Statement on Pension Reform
(Posted Dec. 1st 2013 at 12:35 PM )
The General Assembly on Tuesday is poised to vote on a package of meaningful pension reforms that would strengthen Illinois’ fiscal stability by eliminating a $100 billion pension system liability, the largest of any state in the nation, over 30 years.
I will be voting in support of this legislation which has been crafted through months of discussion, exhaustive analysis and legislative debate. It will not be an easy vote by any means; in fact it will be one of the most difficult votes I have ever cast.
It’s not fair to ask state employees and teachers who have paid every dime they owed to the system to make a sacrifice. It’s necessary, however, because governors and legislators who voted for budgets over the last decade did nothing more than delay the resolution we now have before us.
Kicking the can down the road again is not an answer. If the legislature does nothing, payments to our pension system soon will consume 25 percent of our general revenue funds, further jeopardizing state funding for education, public safety, public health and other critical programs on which many Illinoisans depend.
With the reforms in place, the state’s pension payments will be cut by $160 billion over the next 30 years, freeing up resources to meet other crucial demands. In the first year, savings would be about $1.5 billion of taxpayer monies, a 20 percent reduction from the required current-law payment.
The reforms include improvements in the state’s funding mechanism, a change in retirement age for employees younger than 46, a reduction in employee contributions, revisions in the annual cost-of-living adjustments, and an optional defined-contribution or 401k-like program that I have advocated for the last eight years.
Running for governor requires making tough decisions. It requires leadership, not standing behind a press spokesman or staying silent, as my three opponents in the Republican gubernatorial primary have done.
The spokesman for Bruce Rauner, one of my opponents, talks about “insiders” keeping the public in the dark on the details of the bill. There is nothing in this legislation that has not been discussed and debated publicly, including during pension reform debates on other proposals last spring. If Mr. Rauner were to talk about “insiders”, maybe he could talk about his connections Stuart Levine and Ed Rendell and his pension business.
Mr. Rauner also opposes a state funding guarantee. That’s the same excuse governors and legislators have used in the past, but just look where the lack of such protections has taken us.
Senator Dillard voted for the major provisions of this agreement last spring. Treasurer Rutherford as a constitutional fiscal officer certainly understands the dire consequences on state finances of continuing down the current path. Why are they silent now?
This is a time for leadership and hard decisions, not a time to stand on the sidelines. Pension reform is an issue of fiscal responsibility and the future of Illinois, not a political strategy.