Chris Bailey eloquently states why we will see more referenda pass in the future. To view the complete article go to DailyHerald.com
Taxpayers don't stand a chance
Posted Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Even as many head to the polls to choose between their kids or their wallets, their medicine or their grandkids, police and firefighter unions are dreaming up new ways to take more of their money, too.
House Bill 1816 is the latest incarnation of the 20-20-20 retirement plan- the one that unnaturally inflated the salaries of teachers, superintendents and other public servants just before they retired, all but guaranteeing they'd make nearly as much for not working as they did for working. HB 1816 proposes a Deferred Retirement Option Plan for police officers and firefighters, but it truly is misnamed. A better name would be Daffy Optimum Pay Effect, that acronym also being a pretty spot-on view of how those at the public trough view taxpayers, often correctly.
Basically, the DROP plan would allow people to declare they are retired when they aren't. They begin collecting pension money at the time they make such a declaration, but they actually keep working at the same level of pay for up to five years. This is double-dipping risen to an art form. Though 20-20-20 was designed to clear out educational deadwood, DROPs are designed to hang onto valued employees who are eligible to retire. Given the physical nature of their jobs, one has to question the wisdom of extending physical careers like those of police officers and firefighters into therealm of higher disability and workers compensation claims. Even worse, DROPs often cost more, too. The formulas involve complex mathematical and actuarial tables, but if you are interested in learning the details, go to www.benefitsattorney.com or www.iml.org. Then multiply the thousands of dollarsextra times the number of firefighters and police officers in Illinois and you'll get the picture.
"For the collective good of Illinois taxpayers, it's a bad thing," said Elgin Assistant City Manager Sean Stegall, who is heading to Springfield next week with Mayor Ed Schock.Worse, Mary McKittrick, the legislative chairman for the Metro West Council of Governments, of which Elgin is a part, said in a memo to those governments that the proposal violates a promise made by fire unions in 2004. In exchange for an enhanced widow's pension that Stegall said cost Elgin $600,000, the equivalent of seven firefighters, the unions promised not to ask for any more pension enhancements until atleast 2008. They obviously couldn't wait to fleece us again. Given the current state of public pension funding in Illinois, considered among the worst in the nation, it's hard for the mentally sound person to grasp why anyone would propose an idea that would make it worse. That's simple. Police andfire unions want more, and they deliver votes.
"No more pension sweeteners" is the supposed mantra in Springfield these days, but that doesn't mean lawmakers wouldn't create the obligation for somebody else. Like the municipalities that employ these firefighters and police officers. That would solidify the votes of union members whilemaking somebody else pay, the ideal solution in politics.
Municipalities all over the state have been alerted to that possibility. Lawmakers would lose little sleep over the fact that most municipalities don't have the money to pay for it, either. Or that municipalities are funded by the very same taxpayers. You again. So get out that wallet, even if it means you'll no longer be able to afford to contribute to your own 401(k) retirement plan as a result. If you think anybody cares about you, forget it. You don't vote often enough to scare anybody. It was about a year ago that everybody, just everybody in the General Assembly felt the tax cap lawneeded more safeguards for taxpayers as a result of a Daily Herald series on the issue. There are still no new protections for taxpayers.Why? Because teachers unions and administration groups, those who benefit most directly from education fund tax hikes made bigger by the current law, have dug intheir heels. They vote, too. While taxpayers remain docile, awakening momentarily when theirreal estate tax bill arrives or there's a referendum at the polls. Too late, of course. Until they quit playing the DOPE, taxpayers really don't stand a chance.
- Chris Bailey is the Fox Valley Editorial Writer.You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 608-2729.
To view more of the great Chris Bailey's columns go to the Daily Herald.