Leef echoes Rauner's calls for term limits to short-circuit political machine
A century-long track record of failed policies has left Illinois with a colossal financial problem, Dr. Jeffrey Leef, Republican candidate for the 7th District U.S. House Seat, told West Cook News.
“Without question, unfunded pension liabilities amounting to $111 billion is the great financial issue,” Leef said. “If you add the $56 billion debt for retiree health benefits, we have a colossal problem created by 100 years' worth of career politicians.”
The question is why the people of Illinois are continuing to re-elect the politicians from the party that has created the failing policies, Leef said. Although the Assembly has attempted to address the pension problems over the years, the state continues to face a pension-fund shortage.
In 2013, in an attempt to address the problem, the state passed a bill that capped pension salaries, raised the retirement age and reduced annual increases in pension payments. The State Supreme Court, however, struck it down.
This year, Gov. Bruce Rauner attempted to save $1 billion a year by presenting a new plan based on a plan previously presented by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. The plan was blocked by both Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. Leef said the solution to this problem isn't about money; it's about the need to put term limits in place.
“While this would not change the composition of the state Supreme Court, it is the only hope we have of removing politicians who thwart change, so as to preserve and prolong their own interests and careers,” Leef said.
Justifying the rejection of Rauner's plan, Madigan said Rauner was attempting to drive a wedge between Democrats in the House and the Senate. Madigan said neither he nor Cullerton would agree to the proposed changes by the Rauner because they would hurt middle-class families in the state.
“Translation: We will not anger the unions to which we are beholden,” Leef said.
Democrats claim to be the “great protectors” of the middle class, but it is the middle class that is being the most hurt by new taxes that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cullerton and Madigan propose, Leef said. The state raised income taxes from 3.75 percent to 5 percent in 2011 to pay old bills and balance the budget. Instead, 90 percent of that money was used to pay off pension debt -- which continued to rise anyway.
Rauner's plan would move employees to a lower paying plan. It is ambitious and would likely be the most effective, but unfortunately, it will not see the light of day because it would require the state's Constitution to be changed, Reef said.
Republicans and Democrats failing to compromise are a big part of the problem.
“Political discord is a bipartisan sin,” Leef said. “The only hope for change is for term limits to make career politicians a thing of the past.”