Saturday, May 9, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Illinois Court Boosts Pensions

"Ill. court rejects pension cut law" by John O’Connor Associated Press  May 09, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Supreme Court ordered the state Friday to find another way to fix the nation’s worst government-employee pension crisis, ruling that lawmakers ‘‘overstepped’’ by enacting a law that slashed retirement benefits to confront a massive budget deficit.

In a unanimous decision that frequently scolded state policy makers, the seven justices declared the measure former Democratic governor Pat Quinn signed into law 18 months ago violates the state constitution because it would leave pension promises ‘‘diminished or impaired.’’

The cash-strapped state now must again grapple with a $111 billion deficit in what is necessary to cover its employee retirement obligations. The hole is so deep the state has in recent years had to reserve up to $7 billion — or one-fifth of its annual operating funds — to keep pace.

How can they be cash-strapped with the recovery going full bore?

The plan rejected by the justices was designed to whittle down the monstrous shortfall over 30 years, gradually but significantly slicing back pension benefits by erasing a 3 percent annual adjustment.

Lawmakers who spent years working toward a consensus acknowledged that the ruling creates a major dilemma for the new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, and the Democrats who control the General Assembly.

‘‘I’m not sure that any of the proposals that were considered would have passed’’ a court test, said Representative Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat who was a lead negotiator on the pension plan. ‘‘This problem will now be with us for two generations. And that makes me sad.’’

Took that long to loot it, 'er, create it.

Most states faced the same public employee pension crisis, exacerbated by the recession, and took steps to remedy the problem.

That was the excuse to break the contract.

However, Illinois balked until Quinn and Democratic lawmakers finally overcame opposition from union allies and struck the deal, amid warnings that it might not survive a court challenge.

The Illinois justices ruled the law represented not the last resort, but ‘‘an expedient [way] to break a political stalemate.’’

The court said there were other options on the table for dealing with the economic crisis — including raising taxes. The temporary income tax surcharge Quinn implemented in 2011 was allowed to roll back in January, after voters elected Rauner, who campaigned against it.

In a statement Friday, Rauner called the decision ‘‘fair and right.’’ He called for a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to seek changes to future pension benefits without affecting benefits already earned.


So who ran off with the money?

"Chicago OK’s $5.5m restitution for police torture victims" Associated Press  May 07, 2015

CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved a $5.5 million reparations package for the victims of the city’s police torture scandal that also includes a formal apology and a promise to teach schoolchildren about one of the darkest chapters in Chicago’s history.

I'm sure that didn't help the pension fund.

The city has already paid more than $100 million in legal settlements, court judgments, and legal fees related to the torture of suspects — most of them African-American — from the 1970s through the early 1990s by a detective unit under disgraced former police commander Jon Burge.

Where were the protests and propaganda pre$$?

The council voted 42-0 in favor of the award, the terms of which were revealed last month by aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Before the vote, the names of about a dozen torture victims and survivors were read and they stood while the council gave them a standing ovation.‘‘This stain cannot be removed from our city’s history, but it can be used as a lesson of what not to do,’’ Emanuel said.

I think the scum should have to pay it, not taxpayers giving cretins public cover.

Amnesty International hailed the move as a major step forward, saying it marked the first time in the United States that survivors of racially motivated police torture had been given reparations they are entitled to under international law. 

Better late than never.

Will Porch, who spent nearly 15 years in prison for a robbery after he says he was tortured into giving a false confession, said it is of national significance that the word ‘‘reparations’’ was used. ‘‘Going forward for other cities and other states, now they have a template of what to do,’’ Porch said.

One now wonders how often this did happen. More the rule than exception!

Alderman Joe Moore said the word was chosen to underline the significance of what the city was doing. ‘‘It is a powerful word and it was meant to be a powerful word. That was intentional.’’

Up to 80 victims of torture could receive as much as $100,000 each.

Still isn't enough.

Burge was fired in 1993. Though he was never criminally charged with torture, he was convicted in 2010 of lying about torture while testifying in a civil case. He was sentenced to 4½ years in prison and was released from a Florida halfway house in February.

I'm surprised the CIA or FBI hasn't hired him.


RelatedWoman known for trying to sneak on planes jailed in Chicago

Also see:

"A small passenger airplane dropped from the sky, grazed the hood of a tractor-trailer, and crashed on an Atlanta interstate Friday morning, killing all four people aboard and starting an intense fire on the busy highway."

That's some choice. Torture or death plane crash.