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Our view: Forum highlights pension reform

Pension reform continues to be a hot issue across the country, particularly in Illinois where the Legislature is expected to deal with the matter in a special session on Aug. 17.

We all are stakeholders in pension reform, whether you're a teacher, a DMV employee, or a private-sector taxpayer. How Illinois chooses to get itself out of its $83 billion pension liability will affect us all.

In addition to the news coverage we and other media outlets have been providing, there's a good opportunity to get a better understanding of the complex issues at an upcoming forum to be held Tuesday at McHenry County College.

The forum will center on the chief issue that state Republicans and Democrats are struggling with right now: Who should pay the employer's share of teacher pension cost: local school districts or the state?

Generally, Democrats favor shifting the burden toward local districts while Republicans are concerned about the immediate impact on local districts and property tax bills.

The forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday is being hosted by the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank that examines many issues including pension reform. The institute has held similar forums downstate in Quincy, Carbondale, Springfield and Decatur, and have stops scheduled for Rockford, Skokie and Kane County.

The MCC forum will feature former Northwest Herald reporter Diana Sroka Rickert, who now works for the Illinois Policy Institute, and will be moderated by state Rep. Tom Morrison and Northwest Herald News Editor Kevin Lyons. Teachers union representatives and local school board members also have been invited to participate.

According to Illinois Policy Institute representatives, polling data suggests that the public is just as divided as the Legislature on the question of who should pay these employee pension costs.

Kristina Rasmussen, executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute, said she hopes the forum will provide people with more information to better understand the subject.

We encourage residents to attend.

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