When Pension Reform Goes Bipartisan

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Eventually the mathematical results of under-funding ever more generous pension benefits for state and local employees becomes a problem for Democrats too.  Illinois legislators are expected to vote this week on pension reform that would pare back pension benefits in three important ways.

  • Reducing cost of living increases.
  • Increases retirement age.
  • Capping the salary amount available for pension calculations.
There are few other means short of bankruptcy that can be used to reduce pension obligations.  However, Illinois has rejected attempts at pension reform before, so the path to success in the legislature is not certain.  Of course, the state employee unions are waiting to sue if a pension reform measure passes.  This is one of the most important long term issues for state and local government.  Without pension reform here in California and San Diego, the state and city governments will eventually have no money for basic services.  Rahm Emmanuel, not known for his tea party rhetoric, made the same point.

The [state] agreement also is expected to provide a template for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to follow for his city, which for years has paid far less into its retirement system than needed to keep it solvent. City payments to local pension funds are set to more than double to nearly $1.1 billion starting in 2015. Mr. Emanuel has warned that if changes aren’t made, the city will face a combination of property-tax increases and cuts in services, equating the scheduled increase to the cost of having 4,300 police officers on the street.

It is important to note how a deal was reached among Illinois legislative leaders.

Labor officials excluded from the talks found out about the eventual Wednesday breakthrough from reporters. 

“I think it’s going to be difficult,” said Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, a member of the pension conference committee and supporter of labor’s arguments in pension talks. “I’m uncomfortable they didn’t have a seat at the table when they’re the people who’ll be impacted by this.”

If Democratic politicians feel the need to exclude labor from pension reform talks, then the situation must certainly be dire.  Illinois is paying a 2% premium on its bonds while pension reform remains unresolved. (California and Michigan are paying about a half-percent premium, source: WSJ.)  

This is one of the key issues of our day, because the proper functioning of government is being put at risk by the expense of public employee pensions.  I support Kevin Faulconer for mayor of San Diego, primarily because I am convinced he can be trusted to continue the fight to reform pensions that was approved by voters under Proposition B.  Alvarez’ response on this issue does not “inspire confidence” as a U-T editorial put it.  I would prefer to deal with our pension problems before they become a crisis like Illinois’ and Chicago’s.

What You Should Be Reading

  • Victor Davis Hanson provides the most complete compendium of Obama-fail I have seen assembled in one column.  
  • In the same vain, Charles Krauthammer outlines the utter lawlessness of this administration and its Democratic allies in the Congress.  The destruction of the rule of law under Obama is frightening, it troubles me greatly that this doesn’t get more attention, we are on the path to dictatorship; our long history has made us believe we are immune, we are not.
  • Local blogger KTCat reminds us of the real spirit of Thanksgiving in light of the President’s request that we “talk about healthcare” at Thanksgiving dinner.  After the ACA fully crashes and burns, what will you do? Great question.