To the Editor:
In response to Robert Gebhardt's question "Why can’t our Democratic leadership amend Illinois’ “constitutional untouchable” public pension system?" most of the calls for pension "reform" conveniently neglect to note that the system has already been reformed.
As of Jan 1, 2011, newly hired individuals under a state pension plan enter Tier 2, which offers far lower benefits than those of persons hired before that date, who are in Tier 1. This did not require any tinkering with the constitution, as it applied only to new hires, and other changes could certainly be made in the future. There has been talk of a Tier 3 that combines pension and 401(k) concepts in one package, but it's not been implemented.
Those calling for a new amendment to modify the so-called Pension Protection Clause seem to think such a change would allow for cutting benefits to current retirees, but that would be unconstitutional under the US Constitution - an ex post facto change.
The state might try such a move, but it would end up in a lengthy, costly court battle at best. The annual "normal cost" of pensions, the amount being earned by each current employee, is only a small part of the pension debt, which is the result of years of intentional underfunding of the pension systems by administrations of both parties.
That debt won't be wiped out by a constitutional amendment that isn't needed and won't apply retroactively anyhow. The state needs to reamortize the debt to get rid of the impossible Edgar ramp and pay it off like we all do our mortgages.
The ramp is nothing more than a long term ARM, which was never a sound idea.