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Pension Crisis in Illinois Interviews

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Pension Crisis in Illinois Interviews

Ray Ackerman - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Ray Ackerman, the former legislative chairman for the Retired State Employees Association (RESA) discusses his involvement with Illinois's public employee pension legislation from 1984 through 1995. He elaborates on the 1989 legislation that set up a three percent cost of living increase every year, and Governor Jim Edgar's initiative in 1995 to set up a pension ramp to address the growing shortfall of funds in the five state pension systems. Ackerman also reflects on the attempts to fix the pension system in the 2010s.

Jean Pierre Aubry - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Jean-Pierre Aubry, who has done extensive research on state and local pensions at Boston College's Center for Retirement Research, gives an outsider's perspective on Illinois's severe public sector pension crisis. He discusses his research on individual state and municipal pension plans. Aubry has published many articles on the issue, including on the impact of unfunded pension liabilities on big cities, defined benefit vs. defined contribution plans, cost of living allowance (COLA) reductions, and an overview of the largest 150 state and municipal pension systems.

Jim Banovetz - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Jim Banovetz, Director Emeritus from Northern Illinois University’s Graduate Program in Public Administration and Center for Government Studies, discussed his involvement as a staffer in 1969 on the Illinois State Constitutional Convention, which was adopted in 1970. He discussed the Convention's deliberations on home rule for Illinois municipal governments as well as the delegates' discussion on the pension clause. Banovetz also discussed local government pensions, the relationship between pensions and public union collective bargaining, and the various efforts to deal with Illinois's pension problems since the mid 1990’s.

Matt Bierman - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Matt Bierman has extensive experience both at the University level as well as community schools, serving as the Director of Budget for Western Illinois University as well as the Board President for the Macomb Community Unit School District. From that perspective, he discusses the challenges facing Western Illinois University due to the budget crisis of 2015-16, and how questions on pensions and retirement impact university operations. Bierman also explores the difference between SURS and the retirement system used by Illinois school districts and the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS).

Senator Daniel Biss - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Daniel Biss (D) is an Illinois State Senator from the 9th District. During his interview, Senator Biss reviews the Senate's deliberations beginning in 2011 on the state's severe pension shortfall, discussions that eventually led to the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2013. As a member of the Senate Pension Committee and Governor Pat Quinn's Pension Committee, Senator Biss covers the legislative debate leading up to SB 1 and the status of pension reform following the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015 on the unconstitutional nature of the newly passed Law.

Tim Blair - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Tim Blair, the Executive Director of the State Retirement System, reviews the function of the State Retirement System and the three pension systems it manages: state employees, judges, and the General Assembly. He reviews the impact of pension holidays, pension enhancements, state employee pension funding, actuarial projections, and investment income on current pension funds. Blair also reviews some of the major changes that have impacted the state's pension system over the last two decades, including COLA compounding, the Rule of 85, the Formula Change of 1998 and the Tier 2 change of 2011.

Larry Bomke - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Senator Larry Bomke of Springfield, Illinois discusses the evolution of the Illinois state pension crisis. Bomke talks about the Illinois legislature's attempts to reform Illinois’s pension system. He discusses the effects of a law passed during the Edgar administration requiring the state to pay an ever increasing amount to the pension system (pension ramp), and of the law passed during the Blagojevich administration authorizing pension holidays.

Robert Butler - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Robert Butler, the long serving Mayor of Marion, Illinois since 1963, and a participant in the 1970 Illinois State Constitutional Convention, discusses the state's severe pension shortfall from that unique perspective. Mayor Butler discusses the home rule language in the constitution and the document's pension clause. The home rule inclusion gave municipalities greater authority over operations without legislative oversight. He covers the problems faced by local governments due to state mandates and legislative requirements that lead to local financial problems. Butler also discusses the challenges communities now face with the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund as well as fire and police retirement plans.

Ted Dabrowski - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Ted Dabrowski, as Vice President of the Illinois Policy Institute, discusses the origins of Illinois's broken pension system at length, and offers up potential solutions, especially in light of the Illinois Supreme Court's decision that a 2013 legislative effort to fix the problem, Senate Bill 1, was declared unconstitutional. The Illinois Policy Institute is a not-for-profit think tank based in Chicago that develops and recommends solutions to the state's economic and fiscal problems, with its goal being to promote personal freedom and prosperity in Illinois.

Maria Dunstan - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Maria Dunstan had a long and successful career as a teacher, guidance counselor, principal in the Macomb Public School system, and also served for a time as the president of the local chapter of the teacher's union. She discusses the challenges educators face as they think about their retirement, and covers how the state's early retirement plans, Tier 2 employees, tax caps, levy restrictions, and pension holidays have impacted school districts. She also talks candidly about the impact of Senate Bill 1 of 2013, which reduced pensions, and the successful efforts to overturn that legislation.

Roger Eddy - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Roger Eddy is a career educator who also served in the Illinois state legislature from 2003 to 2012. He served as the executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards at the time of the interview, and from that perspective, discussed Illinois's current pension crisis in detail, including potential solutions to funding problems and increased responsibility placed on local schools to help meet the increasing demands for funding. Eddy also discussed the effects of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that declared key provisions of Senate Bill 1 (2013) unconstitutional.

Fred Giertz - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Dr. Fred Giertz, a long time State University Retirement System (SURS) Trustee, reviews the function of SURS, as well as its objectives. He covers the eligibility, benefits, and liability status of the system. Dr. Giertz reviews the impact of pension holidays, pension enhancements, bond sales, actuarial projections, and investment income on the availability of funds. He also discusses some of the major retirement changes, including COLA compounding, Governor Edgar's 1995 pension reform, the Tier 2 employee system established in 2011, and Senate Bill 1 of 2013.

Al Grosboll - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Allen (Al) Grosboll was an executive assistant to Governor Jim Edgar from 1991 to January 1999 and one of Edgar's key advisors. In that capacity, Grosboll observed the governor's attempt to begin fixing the state's long-standing public pension problem, a plan hammered out with the Democratically controlled IL House in 1994 that eventually became known as the ramp. The plan required the state to make payments into the state's five pension systems, with the amount of those payments increasing each year. By the 2010s the plan, by then referred to as the 'Edgar Ramp,' was being widely criticized. Grosboll sought to correct the record on that characterization of the plan.

Susan Harkin - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Susan Harkin is the Chief Financial Officer for Community Unit School District #300 in northeast Illinois. She discusses the financial challenges her district faces due to the ongoing Teacher Retirement System pension crisis that Illinois faces. Susan discusses the challenges posed by pay bumps at the end of service, early retirement options (ERO), state legal requirements regarding pensions, and the potential impact of pension cost shifting to CUSD #300.

Richard Ingram - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Dick Ingram discusses the organizational character and governance of Illinois's Teachers' Retirement System, and provides an overview of how TRS's pension fund has historically been funded. He describes the relationship between TRS and the state legislature, explains how and why the pension fund became seriously underfunded, and discusses recent attempts by the legislature to fix the pension shortfall problem, especially Senate Bill 1 passed in 2013, which the IL Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2015.

J. Thomas Johnson - Pension Crisis in Illinois

J. Thomas Johnson, the retired Director of the Department of Revenue, past president of the Taxpayer Federation and co-author of "Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State," discusses how the state's pension crisis impacts state government operations, seriously restricting the funds available to other governmental services. Johnson addresses the problems presented by the Illinois Supreme Court ruling striking down SB1, and offers possible suggestions to help fund pensions as well as improve state government operations.

Malcolm S. Kamin - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Malcolm Kamin discusses his involvement with the 1970 Illinois State Constitution (ConCon), where he served as a delegate from Chicago, specifically from the state's 12th District. Assigned to the Education Committee and the Transition Committee, Kamin was involved in discussions on the pension clause to the 1970 Constitution that became controversial several decades later when a huge deficit developed in the state's available pension funds. The pension clause states that a state employee's pension is "an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired."

Cinda Klickna - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Cinda Klickna, a life-long educator and current President of the Illinois Education Association (IEA), discusses the history of pension legislation, including Senate Bill 1 of 2013. The Illinois Supreme Court declared SB 1 unconstitutional in 2015 after a lawsuit filed by WE ARE ONE ILLINOIS, a group which had IEA's support. Klickna discussed several factors in the pension crisis, including legislative activity on pension bond sales, pension holidays, early retirement options, COLA enhancement, Tier 2 employees, temporary income tax, and the 1995 Pension Reform efforts. Also discussed was the effort to pass SB 2404 which had union support but was replaced by SB 1.

Ann Lousin - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Ann Lousin began her career as a research assistant at the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1970, and since 1975 has taught law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. She teaches courses on the Illinois Constitution, and is considered to be Illinois's expert on the subject. Ann discusses the state's pension crisis from this perspective, especially the pension provision of the constitution. Also discussed are Governor Jim Edgar's attempt to 'fix' the problem in 1995, bond sales and the pension holidays of the 2000s, the temporary income tax increase and Senate Bill 1 of 2013.

Eric Madiar - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Eric Madiar reviews the history of Illinois's five state pension systems, beginning his review with events in 1917, and continuing with the inclusion of a pension clause in the 1970 State Constitution, plus court cases that followed which defined the clause. Madiar also addresses the efforts to deal with the pension system's ballooning deficits with the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2013, which was ruled unconstitutional in 2015.

Ralph Martire - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Ralph Martire, the Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability since 1999, has also served as a technical advisor to the Illinois House Appropriations Committee on Education Policy, and frequently writes and speaks on public policy issues, including on Illinois's severe public pension shortfall. Mr. Martire delineates what he believes are the causes of pension underfunding, explains the role of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in helping to craft legislation, and offers potential solutions to the problem.

Michael Monaghan - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Michael Monaghan, Executive Director of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association, discusses his involvement with pension legislation due to his work first with the Senate Democrats staff (on the Pension Committee and Pension Laws Commission) and then with the Illinois Community College System as its Government Relations Director and later the Executive Director of the Trustees Association.

Dan Montgomery - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Dan Montgomery began his teaching career at Niles North High School in the early 1990s, and has been active in teacher's unions since that time. In 2010 he was elected president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, where he fought to protect teacher pensions during the midst of Illinois's severe pension fund shortfall. He asserts that the current pension crisis is due to a lack of state funding, and offers possible solutions, including a progressive income tax, an expanded sales tax, and a restoration of the temporary income tax increase passed during the Governor Pat Quinn administration in 2013.

Laurence Msall - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Laurence Msall is the President of the Chicago-based Civic Federation, an independent, not for profit government research organization. The focus of the organization is to assist public policy makers and to advance such issues as property tax reform, tax simplification, privatization, and joint purchasing, with the goal of improving government efficiency and financial accountability. Msall examines the causes and possible solutions to the state's long festering public pension crisis, while also providing insights into how Illinois got to the situation it was in by 2015.

Senator Matt Murphy - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Illinois State Senator Matt Murphy, a Republican from Palatine, discusses his role in crafting Senate Bill 1 (2013), legislation that attempted to help fix the state's long-festering public union pension crisis. Senator Murphy also shares his assessment of the causes of the state's pension crisis, and examines the subsequent action by the Illinois Supreme Court to declare that legislation unconstitutional. Other topics include the Tier 2 retirement plan, Governor Jim Edgar's efforts to reform the pension system in 1995, as well as the impact of COLAs, early retirement plans, pension holidays and the Great Recession.

Representative Elaine Nekritz - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Representative Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook (D-57th District ) reviewed Illinois Pension history beginning in 1989 and ending with the Illinois Supreme Court ruling on Senate Bill 1 in 2015. As Chair of the House Pension Committee and a member of Governor Quinn’s Pension Working Group, Representative Nekritz also discussed the legislative debate leading up to Senate Bill 1 and the status of pension reform following the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling on the unconstitutional nature of the newly passed Law.

Dr. Rene Noppe - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Dr. Rene Noppe is a retired Superintendent for Silvis School District #34 and a professor at Western Illinois University-Quad City Campus. He has years of experience studying Illinois's various public pension systems, and has made numerous presentations on the subject at various national conferences. He discusses the difference in funding for the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRS) pensions, and also addresses the basic features for the various state systems (SURS, TRS, SRS, GARS, and JARS plus IMRF).

Robert S. Pinkerton - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Robert Pinkerton, the past president of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association (IRTA), gives his perspective on Illinois' severe pension crisis. He has extensive experience through several important roles in the Illinois Retired Teacher Association, positions that placed him in direct contact with the development of pension related legislation.

Henry Scheff - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Hank Scheff, a longtime Communications Director and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) consultant, discusses the union's position on Illinois's current pension crisis, a situation, as explained by Scheff, that has been building for decades. He discusses the impact of pension holidays, pension enhancements, state funding, a COLA ruling, pension bond sales, the Rule of 85 and a pension compromise in 1995. Hank explains how major pension changes have impacted pension funding to the detriment of AFSCME members and state employees, and discusses Senate Bill 1 in 2013, the legislature's attempt that year to fix the system.

Stephen Schnorf - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Stephen Schnorf, former Budget Director for Governors Jim Edgar (1997-1998) and George Ryan (1999-2002), and former director of Central Management Services during the Edgar administration, discusses how the Illinois state budget was affected by the upward spiral of public pension costs, due in part to pension enhancements, early retirement options, a downturn in the economy and pension reforms enacted in 1995 during the Jim Edgar administration.

Representative Darlene Senger - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Representative Darlene Senger, a Republican Illinois state representative from Naperville from 2009 to 2014, discusses her involvement with Illinois pension reform legislation during her tenure on the Illinois House Pension Committee. She covers the passage of Senate Bill 1 (the pension reform bill that became law in 2013), the role of the Bipartisan Legislative Committee in the bill’s passage, and the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling declaring that bill unconstitutional in 2015. Rep. Senger also discusses the many root causes for the state's severe pension shortfall.

Ronald C Smith - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Prof. Ronald Smith, a tenured faculty member at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, discusses his participation as an Independent Voter delegate to the Illinois State Constitutional Convention, which resulted in the 1970 Illinois State Constitution. Smith served on the committee that drafted the Constitution's Executive Article. He also discusses the convention's adoption of the Pension Clause, which prohibits the public pension from being diminished.

Ray Stroh - Pension Crisis in Illinois

Ray Stroh worked for thirty-five years for the state of Illinois as a personnel manager. He moved up quickly in state government, starting in the Dept. of Mental Health, then at McFarland Mental Health Center, then Manteno State Hospital. In 1970 he returned to Springfield and worked as the personnel manager first for the Dept. of Law Enforcement, then the Dept. of Revenue, before moving in circa 1981 to the newly created Department of Central Management Services. By this time he was in a senior personnel management position. Ray talks at length about issues such as hiring procedures, union relations, collective bargaining, and many other personnel issues.

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