The attendee questions answered by President Bob Pinkerton, Executive Director Jim Bachman and IRTA Lobbyist Andrew Bodewes at the Feb. 5 meeting revealed both what the teacher retirees were concerned about and where the Illinois Retired Teachers Association was headed with its lawsuit to protect pensions.
Since a few attendees still sought for and believed the pension information printed by the Tribune Company and its affiliated radio and TV stations via their Media Services Syndicate, those attendees needed to be reminded that Illinois is NOT broke. Legislators annually give away to multinational corporations double the amount owed to state retirement funds.
(All of the following responses to questions are paraphrased.)
“What does IRTA say should be cut rather than our pensions?”
Jim answered: Some legislators ask me the same thing. That’s the wrong question for us. Legislators are elected to handle the budget. Suggesting that IRTA wants to take money from children, the mentally ill or big contracts awarded by certain legislators is misleading and disingenuous. The state of Illinois owes teacher retirees the money. The state needs to pay us. Legislators are elected to do that.
“What will be the implications of joining various suits in Cook County?”
Jim replied: Nothing really. Attorneys figured that the consolidation of suits would end up in Cook County to speed up the process to get the suits before the state Supreme Court.
“Will the IRTA seek any redress beyond the COLA restructuring, or will there be more?”
Jim responded: There are no plans for other redress at present that I know of. That seems to be for our lawyers to determine as time goes on.
Why hasn’t there been an argument put forth regarding the Equal Protection Clause in the exemption of judges from being a target of the bill?
Jim stated: Our attorneys and the attorneys for the We Are One Illinois Coalition of unions are discussing what arguments will be used and when. It seems logical to use this argument. I don’t know how or where that will fit in.
“What is going on with the Medicare Advantage Program shoved down our throats with short notice? Now, after we have accepted it on a year to year basis, we have been mailed the details. Those of us who rejected it are locked out for life.”
Andrew answered: Since the legislators moved on this so late with the sole applicant to provide services being UnitedHealthcare®, a new bill will probably be introduced this year allowing those who chose to reject it to have an annual opportunity to re-enter the Illinois plan with UnitedHealthcare® just like all the other plans offered to retirees across the nation. This way retirees can fairly see how other plans compare and make intelligent choices.
“Will the IRTA be taking a position politically for the upcoming governor’s race?
Bob retorted: As president I cannot answer for the entire board, but all of the candidates want to cut into our pensions. Why should we support or give any of them our money? That makes no sense to me.
“What would the IRTA recommend retirees in Florida do to protect themselves from further attacks by politicians?”
Bob answered: Retirees cannot sit back and hope other people might defend their pensions for them. They need to stay aware of what is going on, and not merely be watching TV or reading the Tribune. Obviously, the IRTA site (HERE) should be followed. Folks just need to register to get updates sent to their email. Contribute what you can to the IRTA Legal Defense Fund on our site. Retirees need to tell their friends and colleagues to do the same. They also need to call and email Illinois legislators. Since they don’t live in Illinois any longer, they need to also have family and friends call and email legislators. Then you have these bloggers that keep track of all kinds of things. (Bob was referring to blogs by Glen Brown, John Dillon, Fred Klonsky, me and others. See the end of this post for those sites.) The important thing is to do something for yourself.
(Part 3, the final report on this meeting, will demonstrate with solid data all of the positions mentioned in parts 1 and 2. The shareable information will prove to all that Illinois can pay what is legally owed to retirees. Illinois is not broke.)