Ridge & Downes - Law Firm

Continuing Attacks on Public Employee Pensions

The leaders of the House and Senate have called the members of the Illinois General Assembly back to Springfield on December 3, 2013 to vote on legislation that may profoundly affect the pension rights of current and retired employees of the State of Illinois.

While the actual bill has yet to be drafted, initial reports indicate that it will not be friendly to the futures of State employees. It will limit cost of living increases that allow seniors’ pensions to keep up with rising inflation, raise the retirement age, cap salaries and must importantly exclude pension issues from collective bargaining.

While Scott Walker, watching from Wisconsin, might approve, the citizens of Illinois should not. The workers affected by these changes are our friends, neighbors and members of our families. They live their lives and have planned for their futures based on the promises made to them by the State. They have paid their share of to the Pension funds, never missing a contribution.

The Illinois Retirement Security Initiative states that 2009 census data indicates the Illinois average pension benefit was $27,400. They also note that nearly 80% of the retirees receiving benefits from an Illinois pension fund do not receive Social Security benefits.

The vast majority of retirees that receive a State pension are people who work hard every day on behalf of the citizens of Illinois. They are law enforcement officers, teachers, nurses’ aides, prison guards, among other workers. They teach the developmentally disabled, patrol the highways, guard violent offenders and assist the elderly. They do difficult, sometimes dangerous and often thankless jobs on our behalf and deserve to have promises made to them, about their futures, honored.

Interestingly, “According to the Illinois State Comptroller, pension benefits paid to regular state employees in Illinois are low relative to benefits provided by other states. Illinois ranks in the bottom one fifth of all states for retirement benefits paid to an average state worker. The total of all participants in the state’s pension plans represent only 5.3% of Illinois’ total population. In fact, Illinois ranks dead last in the nation, in number of employees per capita.” Illinois Retirement Security Initiative citing the Illinois State Comptroller.

On a day where the strongest voices advocating a change to the Pension system are multi-millionaires who do not need to be concerned about food and shelter as they enter the later years of their lives, the working people of this State need to support the people who have spent their lives working on our behalf.

Please call your Senator and Representative and tell them that you will not support a change to the Illinois Pension system that threatens the State’s employees and retirees. If you are not certain about who represents you in the General Assembly please click here and you will be directed to your Senator and Representative.

Remember that is this an important issue whether or not you work for the State of Illinois. Do you really think that politicians willing to take collective bargaining rights and pension benefits away from public employees, for whom they are legally and morally responsible, they will even hesitate when a private employer wants to alter your ability to bargain collectively or even pay your earned pension?
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