08/21/2012

Our View: Pension charade (News Sun)



Other Lake County lawmakers should follow Vernon Hills Democrat Carol Sente’s lead and not accept their salaries for punting the state’s financial solvency which is threatening to collapse under the weight of an $83 billion pension burden. We suggest every Illinois legislator should throw his and her salaries for Friday’s uneventful special session back in the communal pot.



When a special session is called, Illinois legislators receive compensation for transportation, meals and lodging in Springfield, totaling about more than $150 per lawmaker. While Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn wasn’t concerned about the extra cost to Illinois taxpayers, we are and think our lazy lawmakers need to reject the compensation they allegedly earned for the special session. They did accomplish one thing, though, booting Chicago Democrat Derrick Smith from the Illinois House, the first time that’s been done in about a century. That certainly was hard work.



We doubt most will return their pay, but they should because we agree with the learned gentleman from Evanston, Democratic Rep. Daniel Biss, who said it best about Friday’s charade: “We all look like idiots.”



Lawmakers left the one-day special session no closer to a pension fix than when they started. A House proposal brought by state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, would have trimmed retirement benefits for current lawmakers and eliminated pensions entirely for new state officials. But the idea of limiting their own benefits didn’t muster enough votes to clear the House.



Imagine that.



Still, House lawmakers gave themselves at least one chest-thumping accomplishment, overwhelmingly voting to eject Smith, who allegedly accepted a $7,000 cash bribe from an undercover FBI informant last spring. One hundred lawmakers cast a “yes” vote for that. Unbelievably, Smith’s still trying to regain the seat in November.



Tossing Smith was the right move. But it also served as a diversion to the shirking of a larger duty — fixing the pension mess.



Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said of Smith’s ejection: “The best way to show the people of Illinois, the best way to show the people of this country, that people in public life will not put up with other people in public life who cross the line and who don’t seem to care is to make a statement today. It’s not just a statement about Rep. Smith. It’s a statement about us.”



So is inaction. And for that, lawmakers didn’t earn their pay.



SOURCE: News-Sun Editorial Board http://newssun.suntimes.com/opinions/14614266-474/our-view-pension-charade.html






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Paid for by Friends of Carol Sente. A copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections
is (or will be) available for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, Illinois.