Monday, October 29, 2012
IL Pension Referendum Turns Adversaries Into Allies
Opposition to a proposed pension-related constitutional amendment that will go before Illinois voters Nov. 6 is creating strange bedfellows. The groups usually don’t see eye-to-eye on how to achieve pension reform. But Constitutional Amendment 49 has turned adversaries into allies, each with an eye on a common goal – defeating it.
It’s no surprise that public-employee unions from Chicago to Cairo are opposed to the amendment, which requires a three-fifths majority vote before any public body can approve a pension benefit increase. But good-government groups, such as the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and the Illinois Policy Institute, also are against it. So are Protestants for the Common Good, the state’s League of Women Voters and the Illinois Green Party.
“We certainly just view this as fake reform," Diane Cohen of the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center said of the unexpected alliances. "It does nothing to address the pension crisis in the state. But worse than that, it sort of pulls the wool over the voters’ eyes to try to pretend that the legislators are actually doing something in the face of this crisis.”
In April the Illinois House unanimously approved a measure by Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat, to ask voters if approval of public-pension boosts in Illinois should require a supermajority vote of three-fifths (60 percent) instead of a simple majority. Madigan called it “tough medicine” for a state deep in debt. The Illinois Senate also approved the measure, with only two lawmakers there voting against it. Since then, critics have called the proposal “catastrophic,” “do-nothing,” “misguided,” “incomprehensible” and “diabolical and feckless.”
“The only people we’ve seen pushing this so far are the politicians themselves,” said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which represents thousands of state workers.
John Bambenek, a Republican candidate for state senate in the 52nd District, two weeks ago joined a lawsuit in Champaign County seeking to invalidate the ballot question, saying it’s deceptive and inaccurate. “I get that Madigan and his Chicago friends want to stick it to us, but could they do us the courtesy of doing it in a way we can understand,” Bambenek said. “This ballot question and the amendment itself are incomprehensible gibberish.”
The proposed Illinois constitutional amendment is more than 700 words — longer than the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Meanwhile, the diluted explanation of the proposed amendment that voters will find on the Nov. 6 ballot is just more than 200 words long.
Ann Lousin, a law professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and an expert on the Illinois constitution, described the amendment as “catastrophic,” noting that it is “very long and includes a number of new concepts and terms which have not been interpreted by anyone.” She also said that it probably would lead to an onslaught of lawsuits and that it would require a new level of bureaucracy “to monitor, referee and record countless votes, meetings and issues” for 7,000 governmental entities across the state.
Cohen of the Liberty Justice Center said the amendment presents a quandary for voters.
“If you support the amendment, you’re kind of furthering this fallacy that it would actually mean something. But opposing it sends the signal to local decision-makers who already are spending beyond what the taxpayers can afford to just spend more,” she said.
You can read Jayette's full report at: http://watchdog.org/60007/il-proposed-constitutional-amendment-turning-pension-adversaries-into-allies/