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Union rejects Rauner's latest attack on retired teachers

3/24/2016

Our state will soon enter a tenth month without a budget. While seniors and communities suffer, Governor Rauner continues to demand harm to ordinary people and our unions, while refusing to ask the most wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share. His priorities are completely out of touch.

Recently, he took his unfair attacks a step further during his annual budget address by proposing a fiscal year 2017 budget that does not include an appropriation to fund the Teachers Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP), the health insurance program for TRS retirees, their survivors, and dependents. The proposal further illustrates Governor Rauner’s complete disregard for educators and the teaching profession.

The IFT is alarmed - but sadly, not surprised - by this blatant, unconscionable attack on retired teachers that endangers the financial viability of this critical program.

Our union strongly rejects the Governor’s latest assault on the benefits retirees were promised for a career of public service. But as your advocate in Springfield, we want to explain an important detail about the Governor’s proposal and how we intend to fight for retirees.

Much like public pensions, the TRIP program is subject to an annual continuing appropriation. Put simply, the state must fund TRIP unless the law requiring its’ funding is changed by the General Assembly. The Governor cannot act alone. Our union will be steadfast in opposing any changes to current law that would impact retirees' benefits, and will continue to advocate for full funding for TRIP in the upcoming budget.

In 2015, the IFT and our We Are One coalition soundly defeated a similar attempt to cut retiree benefits when the Illinois Supreme Court found pension-slashing Senate Bill 1 unconstitutional.

But there is other cause for concern. Retirees and active members alike should be aware of Rauner-backed legislation known as the Unbalanced Budget Response Act. It would authorize the Governor to skip or short the state’s payments to the pension systems, the same unwise practice that created the problems the systems face today.

Senate President John Cullerton has rejected the legislation and has vowed to oppose it.

"The governor has basically proposed legislation that would allow him to raid monies from the pension funds," Cullerton said. "To start the idea of skipping pension payments again when we have such a bad pension funding problem is the wrong thing to do.”

Attempts to lower the state’s pension payments in the past resulted in the Tier II system for employees who entered the systems after January 1, 2011. As we suspected all along, the system is proving to be unfair and grossly inadequate for newer members and harmful to education.

The IFT strongly opposes Rauner’s new plan to shortchange the pensions and is educating lawmakers about the harm it would cause.

You can help! Please contact Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate and tell them to stand against Governor Rauner’s plan to skip payments to the pension systems. Visit the IFT website to find lawmakers and their contact information.


Keep watching ift-aft.org for retiree news and updates. For helpful retirement planning tips, read the IFT's "Retiring Wisely" guide.
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