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Political Rewind: Bad Week for Illinois Democrats Gets Worse

As we start a new week, it's always good to get caught up on state politics. Here's an easy guide to what happened last week.

Editor's Note: This article was created by aggregating news articles from Illinois Watchdog, formerly Illinois Statehouse News.

Week in Review: Bad Week for Illinois Democrats Gets Worse

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Democrats had a no-good, very bad week, starting Wednesday when disgruntled state workers and retirees booed and heckled them off the stage during the usually upbeat Governor’s Day rally at the Illinois State Fair.

It ended Friday, when lawmakers called back for a taxpayer-funded special session by Gov. Pat Quinn were unable to come to any kind of agreement on pension reform for the state, which continues to drown in pension debt.

Jeers for Quinn, other Democratic leaders at state fair

Thousands of people gathered at the Illinois State Fair Wednesday, officially “Governor’s Day” at the fair, to protest pension reform, cuts to retiree benefits and Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close state prisons and consolidate inmates to save money.

The protest, organized by We Are One Illinois, a consortium of unions representing state workers and teachers, drew state employees, retirees and other supporters. The group chanted “Liar” and booed when Quinn took the stage to rally Democrats on the director’s lawn at the fairgrounds. Quinn thanked them for the “warm welcome,” went on with a brief speech and left the stage.

Other top state Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, also were heckled. The protest cut short the rally, which takes place every year during the fair.

The unions also hired a plane that flew overhead during the rally and pulled a sign that read, “Gov. Quinn: Unfair to workers.” And prior to the rally, workers surrounded Quinn at a nearby pavilion as he stopped to eat lunch. They chanted “Respect Illinois workers” and “Gov. Quinn, keep your word” as he ate and Illinois State Police guarded him.

Smith expelled from House

Illinois House lawmakers on Friday kicked out indicted Rep. Derrick Smith, who faces a federal bribery charge. He’s accused of accepting a $7,000 bribe in his job as legislator.

The vote – 100 in favor of expulsion and six against it – resulted in Smith immediately being removed from the House roll. He is a Chicago Democrat who was serving his first term as a state lawmaker.

Neither Smith nor his Chicago attorney, Victor Henderson, were present for the vote in Springfield.

Smith remains on the Nov. 6 ballot in his home district, but he no longer has backing from the state’s Democratic machine. At a news conference after the vote Friday, he said he intends to remain on the ballot for a chance to be re-elected to his seat. If he is re-elected and returns to Springfield in January, lawmakers would not be able to expel him a second time for the same accusations.

Smith faces Lance Tyson, a Democrat who is running as a “Unity Party” candidate with Democratic backing.

‘Comprehensive’ pension reform evades divided state lawmakers

State lawmakers on Friday failed to reach an agreement on how to reform Illinois’ public pension system in a way that could start making a dent in billions of dollars of unfunded liabilities.

Gov. Pat Quinn called called them back to Springfield on Friday for a special session, funded by taxpayers, to reach an agreement on pension reform, which is his No. 1 priority. It became apparent as the week drew on that lawmaker agreement on reform was unlikely.

Revised estimates put Illinois’ unfunded liability in the neighborhood of $130 billion. Until recently, lawmakers thought it was $83 billion.

Quinn and others are worried that without reform that allows Illinois to make a dent in the pension debt, bond houses will downgrade the state’s credit rating, making it more difficult to get loans.

Friday, House lawmakers debated a proposal that would have eliminated pensions for new members of the General Assembly, saving the state about $111 million by 2045. Some lawmakers said it was a meek attempt to address pension debt that made them “look like idiots,” while others said it was a starting point to show voters they take the problem seriously. Members of the Senate had left prior to the vote.

Each party blamed the other for lawmakers’ inability to come to an agreement about how to reform the system. After both houses left for the day Friday, Quinn blamed the Republicans.

“Today is a disappointing day for Illinois taxpayers,” he said. “The only thing standing between our state and pension reform is politics.”

Earlier in the week, House Republican leader Rep. Tom Cross said a catastrophic pension-fund collapse may be what it takes for Illinoisans to understand the urgency of pension reform.

“I think folks in this state and around the country don’t think it could happen to them. They say, ‘That happens in Europe. That happens in faraway places. That’s not going to happen here,’” said Cross of Oswego.

“Well, when you’re at $130 billion of unfunded liability, I’d say it’s pretty real. And I think perhaps until something dramatic happens, we may not do anything in a real substantive way. It’s a difficult conversation, but it’s not one that’s going to go away.”

— Jayette Bolinski

Kerry August 21, 2012 at 02:16 PM
20 years ago i worked for a company that went bankrupt. My pension was totally gone.
Christopher Lindsey August 21, 2012 at 02:32 PM
My what? I'm not part of a union. My job title is Technical Program Manager at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. I've had offers from the private sector for double my salary that I have turned down because of the promise of a pension. Regardless, the Congressional Budget Office released a report that showed educated people made more in the private sector, and uneducated made more in the public sector. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/30/federal-pay-vs-private-sector-compensation/
JasonH August 21, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Cops and firefighters can retire after 20 years even if they are still perfectly capable of working a desk job.
Christopher Lindsey August 21, 2012 at 02:40 PM
This was secondary to social security though, right? Illinois pensions replace social security. That does suck though, and I'm sorry that happened. On the bright side, private pensions have more government regulation and are more protected by PBGC insurance now, so this kind of thing is less likely to happen in the future.
Kerry August 21, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Every person working in the public sector cries that they would be making double in the private sector. Baloney
Christopher Lindsey August 21, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Heck, anyone, regardless of whether they're in social security or in a pension, can retire at five years instead of 20. There are three parts of the puzzle that have to be presented: . retirement age . percent of income that will be received . years put into the plan I don't know anything about the police/firefighter pension, so I'm not sure what their retirement age requirements or payouts are. But saying that they can retire after twenty years is meaningless by itself. I'm not saying you're wrong. But there's not enough information to say that you're right. I do believe that the pensions need some reform, but I don't think that all pensioners are villains that deserve to be punished. For example, I support the cost-shifting of matching pension contributions to local government because it will curb pre-retirement raises used to guarantee larger pension payments. I also support a reasonable retirement age (retiring at 50 is ridiculous).
Kerry August 21, 2012 at 02:57 PM
If a person takes half of a salary in favor of a pension they were not very smart.
Kerry August 21, 2012 at 03:02 PM
The pension i lost would still not be covered by gov regulation. My pension i lost was an ESOP pension. The co went out bankrupt and all pensions were gone. This was secondary to Social Security. The Social Security i will get is a pitance. I d have been a classroom teacher like a relative of mine, 145 grand a year for part time work and a 95 grand pension a year.
Edward Andrysiak August 21, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Jason...you ring the bell! Even if we add in interest compounded and the like it wouldn't have taken a math whiz to figure out that a teacher, who can spend thirty years collecting a retirement, didn't put in enough money to grow and make the system fair and workable. They knew they had a gravy train deal and said nothing. They didn't check to see that any funding took place and sound the alarm and now...we taxpayers are expected to bail them out. Where did all those "brains" go initially when the program was implemented and just whose fault is it that the money isn't there? Certainly not the property tax payers. I say honor the pension theme but reduce the pensions by half at the minimum. Let the teachers and other state employees file a law suit naming their Unions who should ante up for the other half.
Christopher Lindsey August 21, 2012 at 03:04 PM
And every person in the private sector thinks everyone is out to game the system and lies, I guess. So the fact that I actually received a job offer at twice my salary, multiple times, is baloney? I was just dreaming it all? One reason people don't take these job offers is that they are 'stuck' with their pensions. Once you have 10 years or more in, it's hard to get out. You won't get much from your pension, and if you ever decide to collect your pension you barely get any social security. So then in your new job you also have to contribute even more to an IRA or 401k, which means that your salary is essentially lower and the pay increase you thought you were getting isn't as big as it originally seemed. In poker they call it 'pot-commited.'
Kerry August 21, 2012 at 03:13 PM
According to the New York Times on March 6, 2011 govt workers make more than the private sector and the gap is growing. Govt worker average is 70 grand vs prvate sector of 61 grand. Educated workers do not make more simply because they have an education.
Christopher Lindsey August 21, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Edward, 'you' taxpayers aren't expected to bail out the pensions. The pensions are cashing in the IOUs on the money that went to keeping your property taxes low, kids in school, roads repaired, etc. They've been crying foul on this ever since the state reduced its payments. The problem is that nobody else cared until it impacted them. So they kept voting the same kind of people into office and reaping the personal benefits. Finally, unions have nothing to do with pensions. Illinois state law prohibits collective bargaining on public employee pension benefits.
Kerry August 21, 2012 at 03:17 PM
If i were to get what you claim, i would have taken it in a heartbeat. I feel you are not truthfull. The double pay you claim you would have made could have been invested with a larger pension that what the govt will pay.
Kerry August 21, 2012 at 03:20 PM
If you get a high govt pension then you should get no Social Security.
Christopher Lindsey August 21, 2012 at 03:20 PM
And yet you were just wishing that you could retire at age 60 with 44% of your salary. So you don't really wish that and were just spouting off hyperbole?
Christopher Lindsey August 21, 2012 at 03:24 PM
If you receive *any* public pension you get very limited social security. You also don't get social security death benefits from a spouse. It's called the 'Windfall Elimination Provision', is a federal law, and was passed in 1983.
Christopher Lindsey August 21, 2012 at 03:31 PM
I trusted the state pension more because it was constitutionally guaranteed. I know a lot of people who lost private pensions and I didn't want to risk that. I have friends who lost significant portions of their retirement savings in a 401k. My plan was to retire at 55 with my 30 years in the system (which would give me a 46.2% pension, or about $40K/year) and try to start my own business. And there was, of course, the written promise of health coverage from age 55 until Medicare kicked in. I'm sorry that you don't believe me. I can't do anything about that. I can tell you that if the plans changed I will invoke my 'golden parachute', and that's going to screw the taxpayers even more. See, some of the plans have a constitutionally guaranteed provision that allows us to pull our pensions and move them to a 401k or 403b. So if my pension is threatened, I'll pull the ripcord and take it all out. At that point the state is obligated to pay its portion as well. I'll walk away with everything the state should have given me over time, and the state will be left with a run on the bank and an even worse problem. So ultimately, no, it's not horrible for me. But people might end up cutting off their noses just to spite their faces.
thgf August 21, 2012 at 03:55 PM
...and of course, the State of Illinois doesn't tax union pensions. Just another example of the dems that run this bankrupt state being in bed with the Unions who keep voting them in, even as the ship sinks.
thgf August 21, 2012 at 03:58 PM
speak of the devil... http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/08/Money-Talks-Illinois-Pension-Reform-Walks-Thanks-To-SEIU-and-peaker-Mike-Madigan
Edward Andrysiak August 21, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Christopher...you seem like reasonable person so let me propose two possibilities regarding your comment that "we" used "your" money for all kinds of things that kept our taxes down and gave us bennies of one kind or another and therefore, we owe you. Now, you got the bennies as well as the rest of us including the property tax lowering and all those bennies you claim your money went for as it was ripped off under the guise of an IOU. Simply said then, you, having benifitted from the bennies should agree that you are not entitled to *all* your money back. To give it all to you means you got the bennies and the money. You double dip and that isn't fair is it. My second point is about "them" taking your money...in fact it seems like you never got the money. It was never given over and put in an account in your name/s. If you never received it, you never owned it and it couldn't have been taken from you could it. What I think is fair is to reduce the pension payouts to somnething more inline with reality, overhaul the entire program to name a starting point. And, for those who will not get what they planned on, I say it is regretable and they will have to adjust just like so many others of us have.
Christopher Lindsey August 21, 2012 at 11:11 PM
It's true that we all benefitted from the other expenses. What I meant is that any pain needs to be shared, just like the gains were. People keep saying that the pensions need to be cut, eliminated, etc., but the pensions aren't the problem. Illinois has a debt problem, not a pension problem. They didn't take our money, but they did give us an IOU. With a guaranteed interest rate of 8%, to boot. The interest is what's killing the state now, and attempts to borrow money at lower rates (paying off one credit card with another at a lower rate, essentially) have been blocked by Republicans. Whether or not that's a good thing, I don't know. It's sad. I have to pay my dentist up-front, then the state reimburses me later. *MUCH* later. I recently received a $200 check to cover my dentist visit from nine months ago. It included a second check for $12 because they have to pay interest on any debts if they're not made within 30 days. They're making the same interest payments to doctors, therapists, contractors, etc. Most of our debt at this point is interest accrual, and of course, it's going to get worse.
Edward Andrysiak August 21, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Well Christopher let me say this in as meaningful a way as I can. I really do feel for all you people who at this stage of your life have to worry about your retirement and how you will live and pay your bills. I've been in the "worry bucket" and well know how stressful it can be. That being said, there is the tough decision facing people of Illinois. Do we bail out the scum bags we have in Springfield and let them go on wasting, corrupting and power grabbing all at our expense OR do we make them solve this problem they created in a way that is acceptable to all and expose them for what they are and hopefully send them packing at election time. I think most feel as I do...feel your pain but well know that the taxpayers must take a stand or face more of the same. I'm sorry to have to say you pensioneers are stuck in the middle. It is a forced choice the taxpayers face. I personally do not think this State will do anything more than declare bankruptcy sometine in the near future.
blue gil August 22, 2012 at 01:26 AM
ther is no such thing as a bad week for democrats, in illinois. just look at the goofs that are running the GOP side of things...Cross, he's indifferent, ineffective, or in bed with Madigan. got to be one of the three. Pat Brady, now there's someone that nobody, in his party, takes seriously. Radogno, could be just as effective in Springfield, if she placed an electric heating pad on her desk seat in the Senate.
Kerry August 22, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Yes i do wish i could retire at age 60 with 44 % of my income. It would be alot more than Social Security.
Michael Hunt August 22, 2012 at 05:35 AM
I am an IMRF member and they tell us upfront that our pension is not the type you can live on.I will never be able to retire.I don't worry about it because it may never happen.Generation x,my generation, is the generation that is going to get screwed the most by the previous generations transgressions.I seriously doubt my IMRF nor my social security will still be in place 25 years from now.And we were the ones called the slacker generation by the generation who sat around stoned, listening to Beatles records and bad mouthing their country during a time of war.I say screw that generation first.Take all their entitlements away.Let them die broke and disgraced for their behavior.
BDen August 24, 2012 at 05:12 PM
What studies? anyuone can say "studies" but without specifics it is just Saran wrap. My colleagues and I are all getting less than in the private sector..20 to 40 % less.
deena August 25, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Illinois needs to clean house big time.
Carol B Davis August 26, 2012 at 02:05 PM
All State Workers pay into their pension plans, but not all take their pensions. Many take their husband/wive's pensions; some die; some take other pensions they have paid into. Are you suggesting this is like a savings account and those who pay into the plan should be paid back the funds they pay into the plan if it is not use. A 401K style plan would not work any better if the state did not pay its share.
David Equinstein August 29, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Here's a quick way to cut government spending eliminate township government which is duplicated with every surrounding county, city, etc. And cut the salaries of the Forest preserve Commissioners and President. The 6 Part-Time Commissioners from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County each get paid $53,500 a year plus full-time benefits and a taxpayer subsidized pension for maybe 1,000 hours a year and they just sit there! Not one of the Commissioners has said a word at the meeting about the FBI's investigation. Here is one of the articles http://elmhurst.patch.com/articles/fbi-investigates-dupage-forest-preserve-contracts-a19cbfe2#comments_list about the investigation that the DCFPD President Dewey Pierotti keeps saying (even yelling at citizens on 8/14) that there is no investigation. We need new Forest Preserve Commissioners at a pay of maybe $25,000 a year.
Max January 08, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Olddeegge, Do you refer to Michael as Mike in person?

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