Illinois voters will be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment this election day. The amendment is in regards to benefits paid to government workers at all levels in the state. In short, if passed House Joint Resolution 49 (link:http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09700HC0049lv&SessionID=84&GA=97&DocTypeID=HJRCA&DocNum=0049&print=true ) will require a 3/5 majority vote to increase the benefits accorded to public sector employees. Not only would this apply to the state level, but also for our local governing bodies such as county boards and school districts. On the surface this sounds like a good, worthwhile thing, right? AFSCME and the other unions hate it so it must be a step in the right direction. Think again.
At first glance, HJR 49 looks like it would help Illinois’ growing pension and benefit obligations, but a little quick analysis shows that the public sector unions have nothing to worry about. First, the amendment in no way relieves the burden these benefits have on the budget and taxpayers. Reductions are not mentioned at all. Second, the 3/5 majority requirement does next to nothing. If you look back at the votes held in the Illinois General Assembly, you will see that all benefit increases passed with over 60% of the vote. A 3/5 vote does very little at the local level as well. The 3/5 stipulation is not much different from the simple majority. Here are a few examples:
- 2/3 majority vote is equal to 66%
- 3/4 majority vote is equal to 75%
- 3/5 majority vote is equal to 60%
- 4/6 majority vote is equal to 66%
- 4/7 majority vote is equal to 57% – FAIL
- 5/8 majority vote is equal to 62%
- 5/9 majority vote is equal to 56% – FAIL
- 6/10 majority vote is equal to 60%
The point is that most local governing bodies number 10 or less, so a simple majority grants benefit increases in the same way they always had. HJR 49 has had no affect at all.
In addition, the very first sentence provides a way for legislators to avoid even a 3/5 majority. “
(a) No bill, except a bill for appropriations, …” What is to stop savvy legislators from burying benefits into an appropriations bill? Nothing.
This amendment is a masquerade for real pension reform. This amendment does nothing more than allow lawmakers to grab some headlines and falsely declare that they are serious about tackling the debt that threatens to bankrupt Illinois. While there are many representatives and senators that recognize that HJR49 isn’t much of anything, there is a genuine reason to believe that other legislators will take the opportunity to say that their mission is accomplished and they will have little incentive to do any substantial reform.
On November 6th, vote NO on Amendment 49. Vote NO for a meaningless promise and vote yes to showing that you are intelligent and won’t be fooled by this sham.