Teacher Pensions: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

by John Laesch, posted on Sunday, December 30th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

While many are following the manufactured cliff debate in Washington, in Illinois, a Democratic House, Senate and Governor are attempting to wash their hands of their financial mismanagement of teachers’ pensions once again.
Teachers rally in Naperville, IL
Illinois’ veto session is our “lame duck” session and, hard to move legislation like public employee pension rip-offs is back on the table. In Springfield there is no progressive voice in the room proposing that the general assembly rescind the $85 million/per year tax break to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). There have been no proposals to implement a tax on contracts at the CME (our Wall Street) and, there have been no proposals to modernize Illinois’ tax code with a graduated income tax.

What we do know is that pensions and gay marriage remain on the table as the General Assembly faces one more week of voting. In preparation for the controversial vote, the We Are One coalition planned to bus public employees and teachers to the state capital on January 3rd and 4th to lobby their lawmakers against HB 6258, a pension austerity bill. For some odd reason, the house cancelled session for January 3rd-5th and chose instead to work on the weekend.

The schedule change has, to some degree, worked to disarm union efforts to fight back. This note from Illinois Retired Teachers Association (IRTA) tells members to stay home on January 3rd and 4th.

After consulting with our contract lobbyist and information received from political sources, all sources are indicating that no legislative movement will take place in the upcoming legislative session. In light of this information, IRTA will not be sending a “Call to Action” at this time.

To my knowledge, teachers are still planning to take buses to the capital on January 3rd and 4th. The senate will still be in session starting January 2nd and a rally will probably give teachers a voice. So, should teachers and activists keep their powder dry or go to Springfield?

This article and quote by Mike Riopell makes me think that it is worth the trip to Springfield.

It’s [January 9th the day a new general assembly is sworn in] not a fatal deadline. The new class can pass new legislation too. But observers note that the momentum and pressure of a deadline could spur action. And if the deadline passes, another push for pension changes might not come until May 31, lawmakers’ regular budget deadline.

If you don’t plan to travel to Springfield on January 3rd/4th, why not come let Representatives Linda Chapa LaVia and Elaine Nekritz, the author of HB 6258, know that you support an alternative plan to address Illinois’ revenue problem. I do applaud both for participating in a public forum in Aurora to hear new proposals from economists, education experts, and Fox Valley activists.

The event is free and open to the public at Aurora East High School (500 Tomcat Lane, Aurora, IL 60505) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on January 2nd. I am hopeful that some meaningful changes to the legislation will come of this effort, but as always, there is strength in numbers. RSVP for the event here and join the discussion.

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