The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 29, 2013

Work on pension reform out in the open


DANVILLE — Illinois lawmakers soon will return from their Easter break to take up the issue of pension reform once again.

Due to the inability — and unwillingness — of legislators to fulfill their own promises made to public employees for a number of years, the state’s pension fund faces an estimated shortfall of more than $95 million.

So far, lawmakers followed a piecemeal approach, with various ideas being presented, reaction from special interest groups weighed and little action take to develop comprehensive pension.

Members of the House and Senate have managed to pass bits and pieces of legislation that nibble at reducing various costs of pensions, but nothing to bring the entire plan into line.

The strategy, preconceived or not, allows the General Assembly leaders to retire behind closed doors to cook up their own solution to the pension problem. It’s a tactic the Illinois General Assembly has used time and time again.

The practice robs the opportunity for the public to know what’s going on and to respond to various proposals.

Special interests involved retain a voice at the table through lawmakers who serve their interests, but the real bosses of the legislators — the voting public — are left out of the process.

The pension problem looms as too large a threat to the state’s prosperity for its solution to be determined this way.

Lawmakers should act like grownups and debate the issue under the light of public scrutiny.

Even though it might mean tougher re-election campaigns for some lawmakers, Illinois and its residents will be better for it.