Guest Column: Legislators must address the pension crisis

July 11, 2012

By Rep. Jim Sacia

We learned June 21 that “The Five Leaders” met for more than two hours and could not come up with an answer to the state’s growing pension crisis.

What a tremendous grasp of the obvious. Must we feel that assembling the governor, the Senate president, the Speaker of the House, and their respective minority leaders and staffs is going to resolve the hugest crisis Illinois has ever faced? The answer is simple, and it’s almost an insult to every one of the 12.8 million citizens of the great state — “NO.”

There are 177 elected members of the Illinois General Assembly. You elected us – arguably, we created or at least allowed the problem to explode out of control. Assemble us and let’s fix it. I wrote Speaker Mike Madigan and Leader Tom Cross June 22 asking for a “meeting of the whole”; yes, every one of the 118 members of the House, with the hopes that the Senate would do the same. This thing truly is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, and we cannot ignore the short- and long-term ramifications.

My good friend and former deputy superintendent, Dr. Joe Crawford, shared with me an old Russian proverb: “When you are dancing with a bear, you can’t quit if you get tired.” All of us want this problem to just go away. We are tired of it. Well, thanks to our parents, we are the baby boomers now approaching retirement, and, simply put, down the road there won’t be enough money to go around. Blame it on a sagging stock market for the past four years; blame it on entitlements that government simply cannot sustain — it doesn’t matter where the blame is placed; we, the sitting members, must fix the problem. We must do it now, tired or not!

Charles Osgood, reporting on The Osgood File June 20, noted that California must cut its public pensions by 10 percent to sustain itself. Illinois with its $100 billion deficit, along with Rhode Island, must cut theirs a staggering 50 percent to keep from totally sinking.

Daily, I meet with concerned state employees and teachers telling me none of this can be done while being fair to our employees — on that we certainly agree. I’m told over and over it would be unconstitutional. That comment is usually followed with words to the effect, “We put you in office, and we can take you out.” Please understand that comment does nothing to fix the problem, and it goes nowhere with me. I’ll work as hard as I can while I’m in office to fix the problem, being as fair as I possibly can. If that gets me voted out, life will go on.

I will continue my efforts with the five leaders to bring us all to Springfield at no cost to the taxpayer, sit us in that elaborate, beautiful chamber with the comfy chairs, and nobody leaves until the bear himself is exhausted.

I will be at the Warren Village Hall, July 11 at 10 a.m. Please join me for coffee and conversation. That same afternoon, I will be at the Elizabeth Village Hall to discuss your concerns.

As always, you can reach me, Sally or Barb at (815) 232-0774 or e-mail us at jimsacia@aeroinc.net. You can also visit my website at www.jimsacia.com. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

Jim Sacia (R) is the state representative for the 89th District in Illinois.

From the July 11-17, 2012, issue

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