I increasingly find that the world resembles nothing so much as one of those “How Many Things Can You Find Wrong in This Picture?” puzzles. My latest example is a statement by the executive directors of the Teachers Retirement System, the pension fund for retired Illinois teachers (other than Chicago teachers who have their own fund):
You can click here to open the document (PDF) in another window.
If you’re not familiar with some of the terminology being used the strategy that the state legislature adopted in an attempt to keep the pension fund solvent was to divide teachers into two “tiers”, those who had contributed to the TRS before January 1, 2011 and those who began contributing to the fund afterwards.
Is it my imagination or is the director’s message very long on whining and very short on solutions?
Here’s a summary of the situation:
- The TRS doesn’t have enough money to keep paying all of those to be paid from the fund unless something changes.
- The Illinois Constitution prevents the state legislature from reducing the fund’s commitments.
- Those who’ve contributed to the fund prior to January 1, 2011 aren’t willing to reduce what they expect to receive so that newly hired teachers, staff, etc. can receive more.
- The people of Illinois aren’t willing to pay more taxes to pay into the fund.
I could go into a lengthy explanation of how we got into the fix we’re in but I’ll just summarize it this way: we didn’t pay enough into the fund, particularly while Rod Blagojevich was governor. There were other priorities.
I’d have my own priorities for fixing the present system. For example, I’d put a ban on “double-dipping”, collecting more than one pension from the state, and I’d amend the constitution to do it if necessary. I’d also put a cap on the wages that can be paid by the state and on the size of a pension to be paid by the state, amending the constitution to do it if necessary. Right now in some cases the state is paying salaries in seven figures and pensions high into six figures.
That would be a start. There are all sorts of other commonsense steps that could be taken but right now we’re at an impasse. Our problem in Illinois is not a Democrats vs. Republicans thing. It’s a politicians’ perfidy thing.