Illinois' Pension Reform Opens the Door for Some Confusing Politics

To those who have followed the epic Illinois pension reform battle over the past three years or so, Wednesday's arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court in a landmark pension reform lawsuit may have been disorienting.

Here was Justice Bob Thomas, a Republican from Wheaton, throwing dart after dart at the state's argument that the current pension situation -- $111 billion in unfunded liability, 25 cents of every tax dollar to pensions, pension funds headed toward collapse -- constitutes a legitimate emergency. That emergency, the state contends, should allow it to override the state constitution's pension protection clause and reduce pension benefits for public employees.

"If the court holds that the state can invoke its police powers to violate core constitutional provisions to respond to an emergency that, arguably, the state itself created, then aren't we giving the state the power to modify its contractual obligations whenever it wants?" Thomas asked Illinois Solicitor General Carolyn Shapiro during oral arguments. And if the court granted special power for this "emergency," Thomas asked later, what's to stop state government from labeling any disagreeable financial arrangement an emergency and opting out of its obligations?

(Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.)

Another mess of government money is underway at the College of DuPage.

Sometimes it seems as if we're electing reasonable, public-service-minded people, and then once they've worked for us in Illinois for a while, all common sense falls by the wayside.

How else to explain a $763,000 severance deal for College of DuPage President Robert Breuder, a $718,000 severance deal for former Metra CEO Alex Clifford, and nearly $190,000 in taxpayer funds spent on lavish booze and gourmet meals on nearly 500 occasions spent by Breuder, his top administrators and the elected trustees who gave him the severance?

People get in and get entrenched, and then they get to feeling they're entitled. Sure, holding a local office is a lot of thankless work for a lot of extra hours outside the regular job, and for not a whole lot of pay.

College of DuPage trustees went for dinner and drinks at the college's Waterleaf French restaurant 17 times, racking up $16,000 in bills on taxpayers since the place opened in October 2011. What were they thinking?

Oh, that's right. They weren't. They were too busy toasting each other with fine wine on our dime. Public service doesn't mean you get to gorge at the public trough.

(Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.)