Illinois Education Association union officials know what they are doing when they persuaded the legislature to double the bump retiring teachers receive just before they ride off into the sunset. When legislators decreased the cap on retiring teachers salaries (this cap or bump, allows teachers larger salaries a few years before they retire so their pensions will increase accordingly). What’s a state to do when it has opened its coffers and turned its regulatory authority over to public sector unions? Monopoly bargaining grants union officials the power to negotiate unsustainable retirement packages for public sector unions, and subjects those workers to compulsory unionism and taxpayers to pay the cost.
Dan Haley has the story on oakpark.com.
The obligations villages, cities, counties and this state have consciously taken on over past decades for the pensions owed to retired employees are in active jeopardy — right now, not in some gauzy future moment — of swamping every public budget. Swamping as in forcing property tax hikes, creating new taxes, and sharp cuts to government services we all rely on.
Chicago’s new mayor wants the state’s new governor to consider taking on the city’s employee pension funds. Illinois’ new governor demurs, pointing out the state’s bond status remains just a blink above junk status.
Last year legislators lowered the cap on retiring teacher salary bumps to 6 from 3 percent, but this year the cap has very quietly ran back up to 6 percent. In essence, this gives retiring teaches a 24 percent pay raise just before they retire. This scheme ends up raising their final pension payouts by leaps and bounds.
While the Teacher Retirement System is in charge of teacher pensions currently, it is feared the state will turn the whole retirement system over to school districts to figure the debacle out.
Also keep in mind that currently the TRS is funded at just over 40 percent of its long-term obligations to retired teachers. This bump won’t help.
Teachers will say none of this is their fault. They negotiated contracts and pensions in good faith. That’s true. The state perpetually chose not to fully fund those pensions because, in my estimation, they were cowardly. They didn’t cut costs 20 years ago to allow full payments into pensions. They didn’t raise taxes to allow those pension payments to be made. They assumed they’d be long gone before this brick wall derailed the train.
Now though . . . the Illinois Education Association, crows about their success in lobbying Springfield Democrats and restoring the higher bump claiming that lawmakers “took action to help save the teaching profession.”
Serious overstatement. If you “save teaching” but bankrupt the taxpayers paying those teachers, what has been accomplished?
The question now is how does this play out locally. On one level, at least for now, it doesn’t matter. Keep the bump at 6 percent and the obligation gets shared with all our fellow Illinoisans. Will teacher pensions be shunted back to local districts someday? Local elected can play the same “We’ll be long gone” game of willful denial that state legislators and governors of both parties have played since the 1970s.
The bottom line is that a state mired in a disastrous pension crisis just made the crisis worse.