Teachers and Citizens Demand a Seat at the Pension Funding Table

by , posted on Sunday, May 6th, 2012 at 10:06 pm

A group of about forty people from Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice gathered in the noon day sun outside Illinois Senator Mike Noland‘s office in Elgin on Friday, May 4th.  The people wanted Senator Noland to hear their concerns about the lack of revenue and funding for Illinois teachers’ pensions.  Senator Noland is one of four legislators appointed by Quinn to a task force to solve this issue.  While earlier State Senator Mike Noland (D-Elgin) had informed the group he would not be present to respond to their rally, he unexpectedly showed up

John Laesch, from NIJWJ, announced the rally was about the group’s concern regarding the State’s lack of funding for teachers’ pensions, but Noland didn’t seem to understand until the end of the rally that the citizens standing before him had not been sent by the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and were instead concerned citizens and workers—about half of whom happened to be teachers.

“This is a workers’ issue. And we are concerned that our legislators have not funded our teachers’ pensions. We have a revenue problem here. This is a concern to all taxpayers and to all people who work for a living,” said Laesch.

Noland immediately wanted to set the agenda and ask the questions. “What union are you from?” he pointedly asked. When someone answered that he belonged to the Illinois Educational Association, he said, “I’m here to tell you that your leadership has been misleading you.” Then he added, “We are not attempting to fund the pension system on the backs of teachers.”

When asked how he would fund the pension system in a way that would not land on the backs of teachers or on the backs of the average citizens and workers of Illinois, he did not immediately have creative or constructive answers.

“I have told the IEA everything is on the table,” Noland said.

“Everything on the table means our pensions are going to be attacked,” one retiree said.

“Current employees’ pensions and contributions ARE on the table,” Noland emphasized.

“We (Illinois) spend the least per capita in this nation. When you can’t cut, can no longer borrow, what do you have left?” he asked the crowd. Then he answered himself, “We need to increase taxes.”

A progressive income tax, rather than the flat tax Illinois currently has, is another option to raise revenue, Noland commented. “We are not going to dig our selves out of the ditch that this state is in until we engage in structural tax reform.”

A progressive income tax would take a constitutional amendment to accomplish and would be a long and slow process.

Bill Barclay, an economist, and member of the Chicago Political Economy Group (CPEG) spoke briefly about a $1.00 Speculation Tax on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and on the Chicago Board Options Exchange which has the ability to quickly raise approximately $6 billion yearly.

“I’m open to everything,” Noland said. Then added, “Let me see the piece of legislation,” rather than offering to propose the legislation himself.

“There is a general feeling we are left out of the conversation,” said Mary Shesgreen. She and others crowding around the Senator at the close of the meeting requested Noland to call for a forum to be held with Governor Quinn, those on his pension task force—Rep. Nekritz (D-Northbrook), Rep. Senger (R-Naperville), Sen. Brady (R-Bloomington), and himself, and concerned citizens to come together for discussion rather than to decide the pension funding issue without appropriate input from concerned citizens. Senator Noland said he had already suggested that and had been turned down but that he would suggest it again.

The next event scheduled by NIJWJ in Noland’s district is a Town Hall Forum on Education to be held Saturday, May 12th at 2:00 PM till 5:00 PM. at the First Congregational Church at 256 E. Chicago St., Elgin, IL. Panelists will discuss SB 7, pension funding, and Stand for Children’s assault on public schools and teachers.


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