By Victor Skinner
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A coalition of union bosses met in a closed-doors summit to brainstorm ways to fix the state’s $140 billion pension deficit and one theme emerged:
The unions expect taxpayers to shoulder the burden.
The “We are One Illinois Coalition” – which includes the American Federation of State, County and municipal Employees, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, and Illinois AFL-CIO – “argued that not just one, but several taxes should be raised in order to fix Illinois’ pension problems,” Illinois Watchdog reports.
“There’s talk of a progressive income tax, talk of broadening of the sales tax, one person talked about taxing retirement income,” House Republican Leader Tim Cross told Illinois Watchdog.
Bond houses have given Illinois lawmakers until the end of the spring session to find a way to fund the state’s annual $8 billion pension payment or face more credit downgrades, Watchdog reports.
But things don’t look very promising. Cross was the only legislative leader to attend the We are One summit, and said he wouldn’t ask his Republican caucus to vote on any of the proposals. Gov. Pat Quinn also attended, but didn’t answer questions or present ideas, according to media reports.
“House Speaker Mike Madigan, the state’s top Democrat, dismissed the unions with a letter last week,” Watchdog reports.
Gov. Quinn also hasn’t confirmed whether or not Big Labor will have a seat at the table during pension reform negotiations this year.
In other words, many Democrats seem to be turning their back on Big Labor, or at least giving unions the cold shoulder. Perhaps some Illinois lawmakers are beginning to realize the public is overtaxed as it is.
Some, but not all.
State Sen. Mike Noland, D-Elgin, seems quite comfortable carrying the unions’ water in Springfield. Noland wants to extend a “temporary” income tax on people and business that Democrats approved in 2011, which is set to expire in 2015, Watchdog reports.
Noland wants to extend the tax for 15 to 30 years, or until the state has paid off its pension debt.
“Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire, and these are large fires,” Noland told Illinois Watchdog. “And the only way you could put them out is with big ideas.”
Increasing or extending taxes isn’t a “big idea,” it’s more of the same Big Labor “solution” to every problem. Illinois union bosses don’t seem to be reading the writing on the wall.
Any real solution to Illinois’ massive pension problems must include some form of concessions or reforms that the unions have already rejected. If Illinois union members aren’t willing to sacrifice a little for their own retirements, why would they expect taxpayers to?