A Hint of Fish with the New Cook County Commish

Brandon Johnson and the laundering of union campaign contributions…or at least the appearance thereof.

The primary election (which is the de-facto general election in my one-party district) for the Cook County Board Commissioner seat in the 1st District yielded a new representative as Chicago Teacher Union (CTU) lobbyist Brandon Johnson defeated incumbent Richard Boykin. Normally, an election for a board seat in a county that’s bleeding red (money, not Republicans) wouldn’t warrant much attention. But this election was basically a proxy war for Cook County Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle’s ill-advised and highly-regressive penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax. Boykin, who voted to repeal the soda tax, was backed by the beverage industry, who feared the tax would lead to loss of revenue and beverage-related jobs. Johnson was backed by public sector unions, who feared loss of the soda tax would lead to the loss of government union jobs (and union dues).

Johnson Summary
Orange = AFT affiliates; Green = SEIU outfits

That public sector unions came out in full force (see right) to support one of their own is not news. What caught my eye was the movement of Chicago Teachers Union money between various  political action committees that eventually made their way into Johnson’s coffers. On its face, CTU contributed $125,500 to Brandon Johnson’s campaign from 12/15/17 through 3/20/18 (see below). But drilling further into CTU contributions over that same time period reveals some suspicious transfers of funds:

Johnson Summary 3

  1. Friends of Robert Martwick, $25,000: On March 19, 2018, the CTU PAC made its largest one-time contribution ever to the 19th District State Representative Robert Martwick (D) for $25,000, eclipsing what they had previously contributed to him over a five year span from 2012-2017. Coincidentally, ten days prior to this generosity, Martwick reported an in-kind contribution of $25,000 to Johnson’s campaign. Was this a repayment of sorts? Why the sudden love from the CTU? And why in the exact same amount he just contributed to Johnson?
  2. Friends of Susan Sadlowski Garza, $40,000: 10th Ward Alderman Garza is a CTU favorite, maybe because she is also a CTU member. While Garza is the recipient of over $185,000 CTU fun dollars since 2014, she hadn’t received a five-figure contribution from them since January 2017. Then this past March, Garza received two $20,000 contributions from CTU on the same day. Just two weeks later, also on the same day, Johnson receives two $20,000 contributions from Garza, once again in the form of in-kind contributions for mailing.
  3. Greater Austin Independent Political Organization, $23,000: Not much is known about GAIPO, other than they want to institute a city income tax and what’s on their D-1 Statement of Organization. Their PAC had received a mere $814 in contributions since its inception in March 2017. Then miraculously on March 8, 2018, the CTU gods rained $25,000 onto their Austin acolytes. One would think that such a windfall into a seemingly innocuous neighborhood group would lead to some lengthy deliberation in how to best spend the money, but apparently things move quickly in Austin. A mere five days later, GAIPO sends $23,000 of that $25,000 (maybe they kept $2,000 as a finders fee) to Brandon Johnson. Three weeks later, GAIPO made another $23,000 contribution* to Johnson. Maybe all this love shouldn’t be surprising, considering GAIPO’s Social Media Manager is also Brandon Johnson’s Field Operations Manager, which also explains why Johnson’s face is plastered all over the GAIPO Facebook page: Johnson FBCoincidentally, GAIPO was co-founded by Jason Lee, the Political Director of United Working Families, one of the numerous SEIU-related outfits that was, cumulatively, the 2nd largest donor to Johnson’s campaign.

* UPDATE 10/1/18: Apparently, the $23,000 donation from GAIPO on April 5th was a reporting error

According to the Illinois Campaign Financing Act, contributions to a Candidate Political Committee (how the Friends of Brandon Johnson is registered) from a Political Action Committee (how the CTU PAC is registered) are limited to $55,400 in an election cycle. It looks like the CTU exceeded that limit outright. If the Chicago Teachers Union wasn’t subject to those limits, then what was the purpose of using 3rd parties to make contributions on their behalf? If Johnson needed campaign mailings, why didn’t CTU just give him the $65,000 directly instead of paying Garza and Martwick $65,000 to buy mailings for him? It certainly seems like some contribution limit was in play here, otherwise, why go to such lengths to essentially launder political contributions?

But there’s another twist: It looks like CTU formed a new PAC on 2/20/18 called the Chicago Teachers Union Local 1 PAC. This means there are now two active CTU PAC’s, one registered under CTU president Karen Lewis and the new one under CTU VP Jesse Sharkey. To date, the CTU Local 1 PAC has but one transfer out: $55,000 to Friends of Brandon Johnson, which just happens to keep this PAC under the $55,400 limit. Maybe creating a new PAC under the same corporate umbrella makes everything kosher…on paper. But it’s basically the same damn organization.

One last thing…that $10,500 contribution from CTU to Johnson on March 16 might not have gone directly to Johnson. While Johnson reported it as a CTU contribution on his D-2 Quarterly Report, neither of the CTU PACs reported this transfer to Johnson. The only evidence I could find of a similar payment was an expenditure to Charles Howleit for $10,500 on the same day (see below), but that might have been intended for someone else (Howleit seems to have an extensive enterprise going with the CTU as they spent over $93,000 on his canvassing services in just 3 weeks from February through March). Whether the error was a mistake or deliberate, it’s just the icing on the shoddy bookkeeping cake.

Johnson HowleitJohnson Howleit

So what do we take from this? Mostly that the Chicago Teachers Union is really no different than the evil corporations they deride (and expect to pay an employee head tax). They create shell companies to seemingly flout legal contributions limits. They use political allies and low income neighborhood groups as intermediaries to move their money around and obscure the extent of their involvement. So much effort to wash so much money clean, you’d think the CTU was unionizing laundromat operators. All this for a seat at the middle management table of middle management government. Considering that seat was won by only 436 votes, it looks like CTU’s shenanigans paid off. Whether or not all this is legal, I’ll leave for the political experts to decide. Legal or not, it’s sloppy and borderline unethical. I might say this is more mob behavior than corporate, but that would insult the mob. At least they have clever nicknames.

And I haven’t even gotten to the fact that our new county commissioner is eligible for a taxpayer-funded Chicago teacher pension even though he’s employed as a lobbyist in the CTU. Luckily, I’ve already covered that topic


Illinois Working Together…And Against You

A closer look at a union front group and how dues money is spent for political gain.

Illinois has its share of political advocates on both sides of the aisle. Most focus on multiple policies or a singular subject (education) and its related aspects (funding, class size, school choice, testing, disciplinary actions, etc). But there is one group that seems to have a singular, laser-like focus not on a policy but a person: Governor Rauner. Over 6,000 tweets since this group’s Twitter account creation in 2015 devoted to nothing but commenting on Rauner’s every move, including what he wears…

Illinois Working Together certainly seems to have the governor covered, from helmet to vest to toe. But who is “Illinois Working Together” and what are they all about? Per their website:

Illinois Working Together is a coalition defending all working families from anti-worker attacks. Illinois Working Together believes that Governor Rauner’s wrong priorities seek to harm hardworking families and communities throughout Illinois while protecting the most wealthy. The Coalition’s goal is to stand up and fight back against the governor’s political attacks and threats – and protect the vital services all Illinoisans rely on.

So I guess their obsessive Twitter account makes a bit more sense now. It’s good to note we taxpayers have yet another defender of the “working family”. Unfortunately, history has shown these groups typically define “working” as those that pay union dues. The best way to determine their agenda, besides the obvious Rauner slant, is to trace their roots.

Illinois Working Together…Literally!

Illinois Working Together is located at 534 S Second Street, Suite 200, Springfield, IL. Normally, an address is no big secret, but their address does not appear on their website or Facebook pages. Rather, I found their address by tracing payments made to this organization filed in various government websites. The address is significant because various political committees shared this exact same address in the past: Committee to Reduce Income Inequality & to Support Human Rights (minimum wage increase and millionaire’s tax), Voices for Illinois Workers, We Are One opposed to the Constitutional Amendment (against pension reform). Each of these committees, while no longer active, shared platforms supported financially by union interests. This started to make more sense once I found one other organization located at 534 S Second Street, Suite 200, Springfield, IL but still active: the Illinois AFL-CIO.

While the Illinois AFL-CIO certainly looks like a traditional union, there is no record of them, their financial reports, or their employees with the US Dept. Of Labor like other unions. That’s because the Illinois AFL-CIO is one of those clandestine outfits under the union umbrella that is explicitly exempt from the definition of “labor organization.” How is that possible? The Illinois AFL-CIO is what the Dept. of Labor considers a “state or local central body” which is not subject to the same reporting obligations governing labor unions under federal law. There’s a lot of legalese around the interpretation, but all you need to know is it’s the equivalent of a corporate loophole or dark money allowing the AFL-CIO to operate outside the normal disclosure rules governing unions in general.

The president of the Illinois AFL-CIO is Michael Carrigan. Coincidentally, each one of the political committees mentioned above has Michael Carrigan registered as their Chairman. Mr. Carrigan is also a board member of the union-funded think tank Center for Tax and Budget Accountability that promotes higher taxes on working families. I’m unable to determine Michael Carrigan’s affiliation to Illinois Working Together as there is only one name associated with this organization: Jake Lewis.

Records show unions have contributed over $150,000 to Illinois Working Together since 2016 (political contributions highlighted in yellow):

ILWT Contributions 2

So here we have an organization with a union address funded by multiple unions with strong ties to union leadership. Needless to say, we’ve cracked the code: Illinois Working Together is a union-fronted organization.

Illinois Working…For Everyone?

While researching the Illinois AFL-CIO, I uncovered yet another organization registered at what seems to be the most popular address in Springfield, 534 S Second Street, Suite 200: Illinois Working For Everyone. Other than a dead blog site, this appears to be the original incarnation of Illinois Working Together. Look at their logos:


Furthermore, records show unions have contributed over $190,000 to Illinois Working For Everyone over just a 3 month span in 2015, including a direct payment from their suite-mate, Michael Carrigan’s Illinois AFL-CIO:

ILWFE Contributions

Why Illinois Working For Everyone was re-branded as Illinois Working Together is anyone’s guess. Perhaps this reflected a shift from from private to public sector union support as the contributions seem to imply. Overall, this organization has received over $340,000 in union funding over a two year span.

Illinois Working…For What Exactly?

After reviewing all the financial activity, the one thing that stood out was how each union classified their payments differently. Some organizations pay Illinois Working Together out of their political action committee funds (PACs) or classify their payments as political activities, implying the services provided by Illinois Working Together are of a political nature and outside typical union business. Other unions consider their payments to Illinois Working Together “non-political”, such as union administration costs or contributions/gifts/grants. So what does Illinois Working Together do exactly? Other than snarky tweets and comments of a political nature, what non-political service is being provided here?

Illinois Working…Against Free Speech?

Consider AFSCME, a labor union that contributed $60,000 to Illinois Working Together back in 2016. There is a case before the Supreme Court, Janus vs AFSCME, that will determine whether public unions can require workers to pay agency fees for union representation even when they do not want representation. From Forbes: Mark Janus is a child support specialist employed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. He has declined membership in the union, as is his constitutional right, but under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act he’s still is required to pay the union an “agency fee” as a condition of keeping his job. That fee is supposed to cover his share of the union’s expenses outside of politics…His argument is that all public union spending is so entwined with politics that he should not be compelled to subsidize any of it.

When AFSCME pays Illinois Working Together, where does that money come from? It wasn’t paid out of AFSCME’s separate political action committee, an account Janus and other agency fee members aren’t required to fund. It wasn’t classified as political activity either. Rather, the payments are considered contributions/gifts/grants, no different than AFSCME’s $5,000 payments that same year to the ILLINOIS LABOR HISTORY SOCIETY for an AWARDS DINNER SPONSORSHIP and FAITH COALITION FOR THE COMMON GOOD for a FALL BANQUET SPONSOR. Do these contributions/gifts/grants come from Mark Janus’ and all union members’ union dues? If so, doesn’t it stand to reason those same dues then fund Illinois Working Together? Considering the hyper-political characteristics of Illinois Working Together, is it even possible to have any interaction between AFSCME and Illinois Working Together that isn’t “so entwined with politics,” as Janus said?

Considering all the evidence, it seems like Janus has a pretty good case. I’m sure the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is fully aware of this conflict, and many others, as well. If not, perhaps we should be “working together.”

New Trier: Day of Counter-Programming

I hope you all enjoyed your indoctrina…sorry, study of civil rights and racial inequities here at New Trier High School. Now that you have been properly proselyti…sorry, enlightened of your full debt to society, we continue our series that will prepare you for life beyond these hallowed halls.

While your previous session focused on guilt, today’s seminar will hopefully elicit more useful feelings such as anger and disgust. Today’s topics offer a melange of national and local politics, government labor, and how they all act and interact in the most stupefying and hypocritical ways. For those of you bewildered how our state and local governments got into this mess and why they expect you to bail them out, we believe this session will provide some useful insights.

All sessions will be recorded for future viewing for those of you that might prefer to thrust your fist through a wall or scream into a pillow in the privacy of your own home.

Morning Sessions

  • One Insane Party: Why Chicago residents vote for the same political party over and over yet expect different results.
  • Buy Your Neighbor: How the Chicago Teachers Union pays neighborhood groups pennies on the dollar to protest on their behalf.
  • Your Union, Your Coffin: Examining the arcane process of attempting to leave your union or join a different one.
  • My Left Foot: A simulation using advanced bionics to demonstrate how the Democrats could have substituted anyone’s left foot over Hillary Clinton and won the 2016 presidential election.
  • S-E-I-U, Wouldn’t Wanna B-E-I-U: A real-world case study from Los Angeles showing how SEIU willingly bargained for lower wages for their own members in exchange for businesses hiring more dues-paying members.
  • Danny Davis, Where Art Thou? Tracing the economic stagnation of Chicago’s West Side over the past 20 years.
  • I Eat, You Pay: A beginner’s lesson on pension debt. (pre-requisite for afternoon pension-related sessions)
  • I’m Just a Bill: How Bill Clinton’s signing of the 1994 crime bill led to the mass incarceration and systemic breakdown of the urban family.
  • Final Fantasy Finance: Many public sector folks often cite Ralph Martire’s union-funded Center for Tax and Budget Accountability as the one source of truth in public sector funding and financial analysis. CTBA incessantly and unabashedly calls for higher taxes where taxpayers have no choice but to pay. In this proof-of-concept, we move CTBA economic theories out of its public sector vacuum and into the real world to see what would happen when:
    1. An employee demands a large raise in which his employer is not forced to comply.
    2. A company takes a low-selling, poor-quality product with many better and cheaper competitors and raises its price expecting to increase revenue.
  • This is Library: For all you aspiring social justice warriors, we discuss the the proper etiquette for protesting.


Farm-to-table gruel (no refills, no substitutions)


Afternoon Sessions

  • He Sells Sanctuary: The examination of Rahm Emanuel’s deceitful practice of attracting illegal immigrants heavily reliant on social services to a bankrupt city that cannot afford them.
  • The 4%’ers: We reference union reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor to examine the multiple layers of public sector union management who actively lobby for higher taxes on working families to subsidize their $200,000+ salaries.
  • VoucherPlus: We give a Chicago 3rd grader the amount CPS spends to educate him and watch his family turn it into a full-blown parochial school education with enough money leftover to pay 4 months worth of rent.
  • The COLA Wars: Uncover the many ways a bottomless government pension can increase after retirement.
  • Retirement Supe: A cooking demonstration using the proper ingredients and extreme heat required for a school district superintendent to burn through his/her fair share of retirement benefits in less than 10 years. (guest sous chef: Linda Yonke)
  • Fair Scare: How unions use agency fees to mask their monopoly on representation.
  • The Flighty Quinn: In a simulation of Illinois’ financial predicament, we provide students with a $8 invoice (Illinois had a backlog of $8 billion in unpaid bills in 2011), proceed to give them an extra $32 to pay that bill (Illinois generated $32 billion from the 2011 tax hike alone), and see if they pay off that entire bill in the time allotted (Illinois needed 4 years and could only pay down half).
  • A Pension in Contradiction:  A 45 minute round table discussion as follows:
    • First 20 minutes: A group of public sector workers and retirees explain all the inherent evils and inequities of Wall Street and corporate America.
    • Next 5 minutes: Attendees pose questions such as:
      • If Wall Street is so evil, why do you invest your entire retirement savings with them?
      • Don’t corporations lay-off and outsource employees to meet the insatiable hunger for large investment returns that your pension systems require?
      • If your pension just invested in local farms and businesses that were not as profitable but socially responsible, would you be willing to take a reduced pension?
    • Last 20 minutes: Everyone stares at each other in awkward silence.
  • Dream Weaver: A deep dive into how a former teacher from a poor south suburban Chicago district named Reggie Weaver magically transformed his meager teacher salary from 30 years ago into a $281,000 teacher pension today. (hint: it’s not magic)
  • Pension Roulette: In response to the belief there is only one outcome in the pension debate – that a pensioner paid his/her fair share and is entitled to what was promised – we use an Illinois Gaming Board sanctioned roulette wheel to demonstrate the 34 other negative outcomes on a career’s worth of compensation that would have occurred if the state had indeed fully funded their pensions all these years because there would have been little money leftover for anything else.
  • Old Fogey Paradox: The phenomenon of retired public sector workers who complain about the inequities of Illinois’ flat income tax system while their retirement income is exempt from state income tax.

Epilogue: A Letter from the Student Body

Dear Ms. Yonke,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice another day in your seminar for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy for making us feel guilty for who you think we are. You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions: a piggybank, and a pawn, and a basket of white guilt, a princess, and a white collar criminal. Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,

New Trier Student Body

CPS Pension Pick-Up – Was this trip really necessary?


Ms. Lewis, your chariot awaits…

Many important things were happening in 1981. Rick Springfield was beginning his unmitigated ascension on the pop charts that would transcend both space and time…for 3 years. The White Sox were on the verge of trading in one pair of pajamas for another. And in a smokey, dimly lit office in Chicago Public Schools headquarters, some city employee thought the pension pick-up was a good idea.

In 1981, CPS was broke and embroiled in yet another contentious contract negotiation with the Chicago Teachers Union.  Same as it ever was. It was then when someone in CPS HQ offered, “Instead of giving the teachers a raise we surely cannot afford, how about we pay 7% of their retirement for them…an amount we surely cannot afford.” And thus began the infamous “7% pension pick-up” benefit that stands to this day.

What did CPS accomplish with the pension pick-up?  Did they actually save money? Was this used as consideration in future contracts? Or did it devolve into something else? Let’s take a deeper dive and find out.


CPS teachers are required to pay 9% of their gross salary towards pensions. CPS pays 7% of that 9% on behalf of the teachers – henceforth known as the “pick-up” – thereby requiring teachers only pay 2% of their gross wages towards their own retirement. CPS teachers, like all other teachers in the state, are not eligible for Social Security benefits – as they are wont to remind you, to which I calmly retort – because they do not pay into Social Security. So the pension is their retirement nest egg.

The terms of the pension pick-up are outlined in each contract under Salaries.  While the wording has changed over the years, the main takeaways are as follows:

The BOARD shall pick up for each teacher and other bargaining unit employee a sum equal to seven percent of the amount due each such employee…

This pension pick-up will not constitute a continuing element of compensation or benefit beyond fiscal year <end date of current contract>.

All terms and conditions of employment for future years, including without limitation, salaries, benefits, pension pick-up and staffing formulas, are the subject of negotiations for those years.

The pension pick-up is not a benefit in perpetuity. It is subject to negotiation each and every contract, a fact oddly absent in CTU diatribes, considering how keen they are in observing contract terms <cough, day of action, cough>. That’s important to note as CPS attempts to discontinue the benefit altogether as they are not legally bound to offer it once a contract expires. But rolling it back is not that simple, both psychologically and mathematically, as we shall see.

The Math

To understand how much the pick-up is worth, let’s go back to 1981’s 1-year contract and view the benefit as it was first offered and conceived: in lieu (instead) of a raise:


The ‘Employer Cash Outlay’ is the out-of-pocket cost to CPS. As you can see, the cost of CPS picking up 7% of the employee (EE) pension contribution is equal to giving a 7% raise on base salary.  This is true for 1-year contracts, which were quite common back in the day: 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1989 were all 1-year contracts. This is where CTU derives their “7% pay cut” argument as CPS has threatened to end this practice in current contract negotiations.

The big takeaway from 1981 is the following concept: wage suppression. Since teachers did not receive a raise that year, their gross wages were essentially frozen for one year and, therefore, so was the salary schedule (also known as “Steps and Lanes”) that determined their wages that year and going forward. While teachers would proceed to the next “step” in that schedule, that next step’s wages remained the same as it was in 1980.

As I stated previously, the value of the pension pick-up can change based on the length of the contract. For example, here’s how the pension pick-up stacks up for a 2-year contract, which happened in 1985, 1987, and 1993:


So if CPS froze salaries over 2 years and paid 7% of the employee pension, the cost to CPS would equate to a 4.5% yearly raise for the employee had they continued to pay their full pension contribution. Once again, in theory, wages would be suppressed over those 2 years and that the following contract’s steps would start at a lower salary. In theory…

Same rules for 3-year contracts, such as 1990 (the first 3-year contract ever for CPS…even the CTU bragged about it) and 2012:


So as the length of the contract increases, the value of the pick-up decreases, as does the yearly raise required to cover the difference. Think of the yearly raise as a “premium”, as in the example above, if teachers instead received a 4% COLA raise every year and the pension pick-up, it would equate to a 7.3% yearly raise (4% + 3.3%). Clear as mud?

Enough theory. Let’s see how the pension pick-up played out in the field…

Remember that one time…

The only year in which CPS teachers received the pension pick-up in exchange for a raise was in 1981, the first year it was offered. Each contract after that included the pension pick-up on top of a raise (more on that later). But if wages were suppressed for only one year, could CPS still have saved money? Let’s see:

PPU 1 year over career v2

The following example is a 34 year CPS career in which wages were frozen for one year (Year 10), upon which the pension pick-up began and continued through retirement. For simplicity sake, let’s assume the same 3% raise every year and that no consideration was given to the pick-up in compensation (more on that later). In other words, the teacher received the same raise he would have received anyway, pick-up or no pick-up. As you can see, while the one-time wage freeze does indeed suppress total wages over a career, it is more than outweighed by the pension pick-up. Over the final 25 years of this career, the CPS teacher in this particular example came out $55,423 ahead than if he had paid his entire pension contribution his entire career and never received the pension pick-up.

Now, CPS might benefit since the pensionable salary at the end of a career is lower. But that pension savings is a tiny faction compared to the actual cost over a career. And this assumes wages were suppressed all along. So even in a perfect, theoretical world, CPS comes out behind in the pick-up. <I thought you said we were done with theory?>

Back to the real world…

Let’s run through an actual real-world example of a teacher – let’s call her Jenny – that begins her career in CPS in 1982. Jenny knows no world other than one in which CPS picks-up 7% of her employee pension contribution. By referencing salary schedules from each CPS contract from 1982-93, let’s track Jenny’s salary as she progresses through each salary step for the first 11 years of her career in CPS (Level 1 – BA degree):

PPU Jenny example

Some notables:

So even without including the pension pick-up, Jenny received average yearly raises of a more-than-generous 10% over the course of a decade while inflation averaged 4% annually. Perhaps double-digit raises were common across school districts in the 1980’s or among the working class in general (my bag boy wages certainly did not reflect that). But if such large raises were common practice, I doubt they included a pension pick-up as well. And if they weren’t, how were CPS teachers getting by before the pick-up?

All things considered…

With such significant raises, it makes you wonder if the pension pick-up was even considered in contract negotiations. “Consideration” is an argument often brought up by the CTU and other pick-up defenders who claim that the pick-up was earned in lieu of other intangibles such as classroom size or housekeepers for each of Karen Lewis’ three homes. But there is no way to prove that. To the contrary, I find evidence of other so-called considerations given, but by CPS, such as:

  • 1983:  CPS offered a 2.5% bonus on top of a COLA increase that was on top of a step increase. What was the point of that bonus if they were already offering a 7% bonus in the pick-up?
  • 1984: CPS wanted teachers to pay part of the premium for health benefits. CPS dropped the premium demand.
  • 1987: The year of the infamous 19 day school strike. In the end, on top of 4% yearly COLAs, CPS granted teachers more sick days and improved health coverage. In return, CPS laid off 1,700 teachers and other staffers to help pay for it all. Does that count as “consideration”?
  • 1990: One of CPS’s biggest blunders: diverting pension money towards salaries and raises. The $66M diverted from the pensions would be worth about $400M today. To add insult on injury, those raises inflated salary schedules from that point forward, thereby inflating pensions (and negating any such pick-up savings, if there were savings to begin with…and there weren’t). You could argue that CPS is still paying for that decision and that salaries have been artificially inflated since then.

The Chicago Tribune’s 1988 article Teachers Union Has Power To Run System does a pretty good job explaining a whole host of considerations, the most egregious being:

Teachers also can save up to 244 sick days, take a sick leave just before retirement and get paid the entire amount.

More than 200 teachers have retired straight out of sick leaves in the past five years. In response to complaints by board member Winnie Slusser, school officials are trying to determine the cost of this practice.

“When people retire or resign out of a sick leave, their class is covered by a sub, even if they have no intention of coming back,“ Slusser said.

The list goes on and on, but you get the point. The argument that CTU gave up something – anything – in exchange for the pension pick-up is dubious at best. Quite frankly, any outfit that would pilfer from their own retirement fund for raises today doesn’t seem to put much consideration in anything.


Over time, the pension pick-up devolved into an unappreciated and assumed, yet expensive, benefit. Unappreciated, that is, until it was about to be taken away.  CTU has no doubt taken it for granted over the years. Even the media hardly reported it. Take this recap in the Sun-Times of the 1993 CPS contract: “For the first time teachers began paying part of their insurance premiums…their pay was frozen for two years.” No mention that teachers still received the pension pick-up. No mention that teachers still received their automatic step increase. You would think CTU was teaching for free. You could argue the biggest faults in the pick-up are the utter lack of transparency and the illusion that salaries are held in check by a valiant school board when in actuality they are not.

But there are a few ways CPS could have made the pick-up work. A smart plan would have entailed a choice between a pension pick-up that was worth more today than the COLA raise. For example, the offer could look like this on a $50,000 base salary:

PPU bargaining

Does the teacher chose the pick-up and take an additional $2,135 in his take home pay this year or pay his full pension contribution and take the $1,500 increase is his gross salary that will factor into higher future earnings and a larger pension? Either CPS pays more today but cuts down pensionable salaries later or pays less today but keeps salary increases reasonable. This is how it should have been all along!

Or CPS could offer the pick-up as a longevity bonus. How about the 7% pick-up is activated only for 20/25/30 year anniversaries as a sort of bonus to long-term employees? I’m all for creative compensation and incentive plans. But this only works if something has perceived value. Past contracts prove otherwise.

Perhaps another lesson is when you freeze salaries that you actually freeze salaries! Because it seems that every pay freeze has been met with some sort of clawback that negates the freeze altogether. It’s only human nature to take back what you think you lost. Do you think employees cared that their employer gave them something else in exchange for a raise years ago? They only care that they didn’t get a raise and that this year’s raise has to make up for it. In the end, it’s always about the gross wages.

Lack of transparency, little or no consideration, presupposed…all prevalent characteristics of the pension pick-up. Just another bad idea from CPS in a long line of bad ideas.

But there are other members in the bad ideation syndicate. Many other school districts across the state pick up some portion of the employee pension contribution as well (Not just teachers, mind you. There are district superintendents earning $200,000 that pay nothing towards their pensions!). But the only way to truly know if salaries are kept in-check is to compare similar districts with no pick-up. Perhaps that is a case study for another time…

Until then, everyone hop on the pension pick-up. Space is limited. And it may not be around much longer…hopefully…

The Not-So Center for Tax and Budget Accountability

Whoever loves the law and sausages should never watch either being made.

This quote crosses my mind when I think of Ralph Martire’s Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (henceforth referred to as the CTBA).  The CTBA has been peddling their sausage in Illinois for years. But once you discover the ingredients of that organization, it explains why all its offerings taste the same. And why, in this case, it’s good to know how the sausage is made.

First, a little background. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability was “formed in 2000 to be a bipartisan, nonprofit research, and advocacy think tank that works across ideological lines to promote social and economic justice for everyone, from traditionally disadvantaged populations to the middle-class.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a nobler cause for a not-for-profit, right? Actually, not that hard-pressed, as most NFP’s have similar mission statements (advice: always mention “children”).  In a nutshell, they produce financial analysis and reports ranging from opinions on how taxes should be structured in this state to the reality of budgets proposed by the Legislature as they pertain to state law.

The CTBA is run by Ralph Martire, its President and Executive Director. You might have seen him on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight debating against the Illinois Policy Institute on various issues. He frequently appears as a guest columnist in various media outlets statewide. Mr. Martire even has appeared on the State House floor, offering his fiscal opinion to Legislature on various matters. He has the ear of many elected politicians. Needless to say, Ralph Martire knows his way around Illinois government.

So what’s the problem? As I highlighted above, the CTBA portrays itself to the public as “bipartisan”. Numerous media outlets will also introduce them as bipartisan. When folks hear “bipartisan”, they typically think objective, balanced, unbiased. And if Mr. Martire is going to be omnipresent in all tax-related discussions in this state, I think it’s important to know when CTBA allegiances stand. Is the CTBA unbiased? Are they balanced? Let’s find out…

Who’s at the top?

A good indicator of a balanced organization is often reflected in their Board of Directors. Upon review, you’ll see the CTBA Board reads as a who’s who of public sector influence:

There are others, but I’m spent, and I haven’t even gotten to the CTBA’s funding yet. But you get the idea, right? These folks are members of organizations that are all long-time cogs of the failed political machine in this state. They all have a vested interest in keeping the status quo that got Illinois into this fiscal vortex. Diversity of thought, as far as CTBA leadership goes, is definitely lacking here.


So how bipartisan are the organizations that fund the CTBA? According to OpenSecrets.org, Democrats rule the day in the public sector union support, and it ain’t even close. And if the ISBE database had a decent query function, I could show you just how one-sided the local affiliates truly are. But it appears as though the only time the IEA, IFT, AFSCME, or SEIU has ever shown significant support for a Republican candidate in recent times was when they dumped over $1,000,000 in less than one month into the ‘Dillard for Governor’ primary campaign in 2014. But that was a thinly veiled attempt to hijack the election by picking both candidates, not an exercise of bipartisanship. If anything, it was an attempt to stack the deck against independent voters who deserved a choice in their government.

So the organizations represented on the CTBA Executive Board almost exclusively support the Democratic Party. Can an organization overcome this extreme partisanship and bias of thought? Do they have motivation to break out on their own? Let’s find out…

Who’s really paying CTBA’s bills…

Most of CTBA’s funding can be accounted for using the following sources:

What was revealed was a long paper trail of public sector funding at both the state and national level:

  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and 3 of its Illinois affiliate’s (IFT) PAC funds (COPE)
  • National Education Association (NEA) and its Illinois affiliate’s (IEA) PAC fund (IPACE)
  • AFSCME Local 31 (their national apparently doesn’t give a crap)
  • SEIU National HQ and 3 state affiliates – Healthcare IL/IN, International Illinois Council (WTF is that? “International” as in worldwide or House of Pancakes?), Local Union 73

In fact, from 2008-2013, nearly two-thirds of all CTBA revenue was derived from just the “Big Four” public sector unions: NEA, AFT, SEIU, and AFSCME:

CTBA contribution summary

Also, one of the detailed transactions reveals the following:


Financial contract?! With the teacher’s union? Pray tell what unbiased and “bipartisan” findings may we expect to find in a financial report derived from a contractual commitment with an extremely partisan organization, paid for by that extremely partisan organization, all while that extremely partisan organization is entirely dependent on tax revenue?! I’m wagering the IEA does not enter into “financial contracts” with think-tanks that promote prudent spending or fiscal restraint. This line item alone reveals extreme bias and pressure on the CTBA to produce contractually-bound, union-friendly results.

The only major non-union contributor is the Woods Fund of Chicago, whom I would consider the most bipartisan supporter of CTBA activities. Although, for you conspiracy theorists out there (of which I am not one), you might remember this was the organization with the Obama-Ayers-Weather Underground-terrorist connection. Regardless of your political beliefs on that topic, Woods appears to do a good job of spreading its wealth amongst many needy organizations. However, the CTBA did receive $130,000 over the years from Woods as the “fiscal agent” for A+ Illinois (see sample below). But A+ Illinois was nothing more than a cheap knock-off union storefront, much like its incestuous offspring A Better Illinois, in which the public sector unions attempt time and time and time <deep inhale> and time and time again to hide behind an altruistic name in the pursuit of tax hikes on working families or to deny taxpayers freedom of choice. So if Woods is funding union shell corporations, can we view them as bipartisan? Maybe not.

CBTA Woods

So by adding the contributions from these 5 organizations, plus smaller contributions from the Chicago Community Trust and Economic Policy Institute (another AFSCME/SEIU funded venture), I’m able to account for 75% of CTBA’s reported revenue for 2008-13. Conspicuously missing are any contributions from the AFL-CIO. Perhaps this is due to their affiliate, the AFT (I know, those union tentacles spread everywhere, don’t they? It never ends. Seriously, their PAC tentacles are clutched to just about every well-moneyed political movement in IL as well. Just like those evil corporations, no?), donating large sums over the years. Or perhaps there is some other AFL-CIO not-for-profit that I haven’t uncovered yet that contributes directly.

Clearly, without public sector funding and their just as important political clout, CTBA would be severely hampered if their efforts to compile and communicate their message. Whatever the CTBA is selling, only a handful of folks appear to be buying, and those folks are in a bathroom stall at Club Blago snorting up lines of your savings with rolled up tax dollars.

Putting the pieces together

The dependence on union funding makes the CTBA the de-facto financial think-tank of the public sector unions and reveals a undeniably heavy bias towards policies that benefit those unions. In a nutshell, these unions, entirely dependent on tax revenue for their survival, pay Mr. Martire to produce reports calling for higher taxes. The CTBA “bipartisan-ship”, if it ever existed to begin with, officially sunk long ago. How can someone claim to be bipartisan when the outfits paying their bills are completely partisan? I would give them more credit if they just were more upfront on their true stance. But I’m guessing “Union Financial Arm Says Higher Taxes Only Way Out” or “‘Higher Taxes Necessary’ States Group Paid by Taxes” headlines are lacking the subtlety the unions are accustomed to. The CTBA wants a balanced, unbiased status yet has done nothing to earn it. Their portrayal of their own views and motivations are disingenuous. Recently WTTW’s Chicago Tonight went as far as to refer to the CTBA as “left-leaning” (did Phil Ponce really read my tweet?). I counter the CTBA is not merely leaning left, but completely horizontal…in bed with the union johns that pay them.

And where is the expense analysis in all this? The CTBA sure has plenty of opinions on how to increase taxes, but very little recommendations on how to reduce expenses. Where are the proposed process improvements across various levels of government? Cost savings and efficiencies? Elimination of duplicative services? And Mr. Martire’s solution for the pension mess? Merely amortize the debt over a longer period of time so that yet another generation or two that did not consume these services have to pay for them! Yes, by all means, stretch those payments into an extremely flawed system even further into the murky future. What better way to hide the true cost of both past and future services while simultaneously covering your benefactors’ collective asses. Suze Orman would throw a fit if she heard that plan (WWSOD bracelets, green: $3). I believe this is the same business model used in the rent-to-own furniture industry. The sheer pomposity of such a CTBA FMJ Donutstatement should send a shiver down any Millennial’s spine. Once again, they eat it, we pay for it.

Forget state expenses for a moment…how about speaking up for the union members whose dues are paying CTBA salaries? Where’s the analysis for progressive union dues where new members at lower salaries pay less than their end of career salary-spiking and seniority-protected brothers and sisters? How about redistributing higher pensions towards lower pensions, just like Social Security does? Wouldn’t that align with the CTBA’s “social and economic justice for everyone” creed? <crickets chirping> Sorry, how foolish of me, that’s not Other People’s Money.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability is all T with sprinkles of B and little regard for A. And the C should be dropped entirely.

But aren’t their numbers right?

This is the pre-recorded response to all criticism of CTBA analysis. But aren’t their numbers right?! Tell me where their numbers are wrong! But that is the wrong question to ask because that is not the exercise here. Their task is to back into a pre-determined revenue level that will support their patrons’ laundry list of financial requirements. To the CTBA, the average taxpayer is nothing more than a cell in a spreadsheet, the veritable ghost in the Illinois tax machine with bottomless pockets. There is no revenue problem the CTBA has encountered that cannot be solved by increasing a percentage amount in Column E in their ‘RaiseTaxes.xlsx’ file. What’s that you say? There are less people in the $75,000-$100,000 tax brackets in the proposed progressive tax plan, so IL might miss the revenue target next year? No matter, just raise that tax rate <seven…decimal…five…ENTER…problem solved!>.  There are countless ways to back into a projected revenue number. That’s all that’s happening here.

Make no mistake, CTBA knows the funding laws (such as minimal required funding for healthcare by the federal govt), contractual commitments to labor unions, and constitutional guarantees (pensions). But the labor laws were written with a heavy-hand from union lobbyists as to provide little-to-no flexibility to responsibly manage finances under those funding rules. Add political giveaways over the years such as pension system enhancements (compounded COLA, ERO…PS – If everyone is knocking each other down while running towards the exits to take your early retirement package, you might have set the price a wee bit too low, eh?) whose financial impacts were never properly vetted and, once offered, could not be scaled back. Then once everything is all “legal”, the unions send in their financial think-tanks to propose new tax rules that conveniently tie to the labor laws they and their political “partners” drafted. Conforming your numbers to statute, especially when you have a hand in crafting the laws, is easy. Growing an economy to support those numbers is not.

Of course the numbers are right, when given without context. When your solution is to raise the price of a service in which the consumers have no choice but to pay for that service, and you bear no responsibility to improve that service, it’s hard not to be right. That works on a technical level, not so much a practical one.

So don’t address the numbers. Address the context in which they are given. Therein lies the truth.

The end game

The play here is obvious: Hide under the guise of “working families” to promote a heavy union agenda with the illusion of bipartisanship. (And while we’re on the topic of working families, unless you’re on the bottom rungs of the earnings ladder or a union member, you’re not what the CTBA considers a “working family”. Busting your butt resolving network issues at your company at 4am? Small-yet-slightly successful small business owner working 18 hour days? Just graduated med school with a mountain of student debt? Working in a pharmaceutical lab? Tough crackers…none of those qualify as “working families” in the eyes of the CTBA or the public sector. It’s time to take back ownership of the “working” narrative these organizations usurped from the individual taxpayer. But that’s a topic for another time…)

Every tax proposal the CTBA comes up with is a tax hike. Sure, they’ll market it as a deduction, but only because their plans are based on higher tax rates that have since expired. Even its kissin’ cousin, the “fair tax” pitched by A Better Illinois and its puppet Senator Harmon, was a complete sham. That too was pitched as a “tax cut on 94% of taxpayers”. But if you read the fine print – the fine print the unions and their puppet politicians hawking this plan never called out in the media – it revealed that the plan was based on the expiring 5% tax rate. When you compare that tax plan to the current 3.75% tax rate, their plan amounts to a tax hike on nearly every single taxpayer in the state. That’s not what I would call fair. Or transparent. Or ethical. Notice how we have yet to see a revised progressive tax plan from any of these union progeny scaled to the current 3.75%, one which could indeed provide a tax cut on the 94%. That’s because it doesn’t fit the union narrative.

The end game is all too clear…the unions, and their paid-for politicians, want the ability to continually raise taxes on what they deem higher income tax brackets to back into their yearly budget numbers in a constant expansion of spending with minimal accountability. It’s all too obvious. The way they’ve structured it makes it easy to do. Look at page 10 of the CTBA plan again: merely 20% of the individual tax returns filed would account for 80% of the state individual income tax revenue (That scary stat alone shows you just how much of the tax burden can and will fall on most mid-to-mid/upper class folks. And congrats to those making over $50K as you’ve a proud member of the ‘33% of the IL taxpayers paying 90% of the state income taxes’ club.). So it would be relatively easy to continually raise taxes in these brackets – essentially smaller segments of the voting public – and have little impact on election results.  Well, the ultimate impact might be a decline in the population that’s already paying most of the bills followed by the inevitable “trickle down” of higher taxes on lower incomes. But that is not the unions’ concern, nor the CTBA’s. Not when they can back into your their target numbers. Not when the taxpayers can be reduced to a number or a financial experiment in the unions’ dirty petri dish. Isolating and suppressing individual rights is what is really at stake here.

Look, you don’t have to be pro-union to be for a progressive tax structure. But shouldn’t you at least practice what you preach? The outfits funding the CTBA and shoving their progressive tax plans down our throats are regressive with their own funds – from their flat dues to their flat pensions to their flat COLA’s. The unions complain that Tier 2 of the pension system is a drastic reduction of retirement benefits when compared to Tier 1, yet those same unions charge those Tier 2 members the same amount in dues as Tier 1 members! So they admit to a large compensation discrepancy for their members, yet refuse to change their own regressive dues structure to mitigate its impact. Is that equitable? Is that fair? If the CTBA and its patrons contradict the very rules they stand for when it’s their own money, why should we listen to anything they have to say about how to spend ours?! What’s good for the goose…screw the gander.

So now you have a better idea as to what motivates the CTBA: partisanship via patronage. And now you know how the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability makes its sausage.

No one said you have to buy it.

In Illinois Government, Who’s Chopping Whom?

Cuts. We all feel them. In some places, they run deeper than others.

Even my hometown of Oak Park, the land of the $37 million pool, is susceptible to cuts. According to the Better Government Association, Governor Rauner wants to cut the share of state income taxes distributed to municipalities through the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF) from 8% to 4%. So Illinois’ financial crisis has hit home for all of us, quite literally. Oak Park will indeed be hit hard by this measure. According to Voices For Illinois Children, this would specifically cost Oak Park a potential $2.5M for fiscal year 2016. And in a recent letter to the editor in my local paper, the author mentioned this, along with a myriad of cuts proposed by Governor Rauner that would harm working families, calling for residents to “stop the chop.” But this particular “chop” seemed a bit excessive. What on Earth could we innocent Oak Parkers have done to deserve such treatment from the state?

Good rhetorical, albeit loaded, question. There exists one particular local expense that has ramifications at the state level yet the state has little control over…pensions. In my pension research, I am reminded of a few gimmicks the unions have used to “legally” inflate their pensions, thereby costing the state more money than it should. I wondered if my own leafy village was guilty of such behavior. Then I came across this clause in Oak Park’s District 97 budget regarding educational funding from 2002-03 that sheds some light on reaping what we have sown: 2X20 salary retirement benefits (a contractual commitment to increase retiring certified salaries 20% for each of the last two years of employment) are included with salary budgets. The cost of the salary benefit is $470,000 for 28 staff members.

This is what is known as the infamous pension spike. Locally, it’s a one-time budgetary expense. For the state, it’s a bill they continue to pay to this day. Pension spikes come in many shapes and sizes (there are legends of a teachers’ contract that provided for 70% more in base pay spread over the last three years of employment). Since 2005, it has been limited to 6% over the final years of employment. Prior to that, in many school districts such as Oak Park, the spike came in 20% compounded increments over the final 2 years of service (hence 2×20). That’s a 44% total raise in just 2 short years. And because an educator’s pension is calculated based on the four highest consecutive annual salary rates, the “2×20” pension spike basically throws half of the pension calculation – a calculation, mind you, that is already extremely retiree-friendly and heavily weighted towards end of career earnings – out the window, inflating the pension by thousands of dollars. There are many ways you can imperil a properly funded pension. Providing a late career salary increase is just one of them.

So what does this one budget line item from over a dozen years ago have to do with Rauner’s cuts? Let’s see…the impact of the 2×20 pension spike, for just one teacher back then, could increase a pension by an extra $5,000 the first year (results may vary based on salary and tenure). Add a 3% compounded COLA over a decade, and it comes out to around an extra $65,000 in pension benefits for that one teacher through today. That doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things, does it? Well, according to the budget, 28 teachers were eligible for this benefit. 28 teachers…each receiving an extra $65,000 in benefits…factor in life expectancy… you easily hit $1.5M total through 2015 alone (remember, we’ll still be paying for this for years to come). And this is but one group of retiring teachers. This “2×20” clause appears in D97 budgets before and after 2002. All it takes is one more retiring group and you easily eclipse the $2.5M the governor is threatening to withhold from Oak Park. Late career pension spikes, year after year, across over 800 school districts statewide…one can only fathom the financial impact of this cost shift from local to state government over the decades.

So Oak Park, along with many other municipalities, saddled the state with millions in additional pension costs over the years. In cruel yet comical irony, Oak Park managed a sort of reverse progressivism in all of this. Since our teachers are better compensated than most, it makes for higher pensions, thereby forcing those lower income municipalities to shoulder more than their fair share of our pension debt. In a depraved sort of way, we actually come out ahead (WARNING: SILVER LINING EXTREMELY THIN). Mind you, I have no issue with stand alone, end of career bonuses to reward careers devoted to our village. I do, however, take issue with outlier bonuses manipulating an already generous pension calculation that will be paid out over multiple generations. And I do take issue with paying year after year for yet another gift some schleprock from Generation Gimme took all the credit for. If ‘Seinfeld’ taught us anything, it’s that George bought the big salad.

And to add to this 7 Layer Cake of Cruel Irony, former governor and current lawnmower man Pat Quinn actually lowered the local share of state income taxes from 10% to 6% back in 2011. For those of you lighter in the wallet, you will recall that was the same time Quinn raised Illinois’ individual and corporate income tax rates (ergo the lightweight wallet). That meant the state pocketed all the extra revenue from the tax hike and passed none of it down to the towns and villages. Yet I don’t seem to recall my local leaders clamoring for our “fair share” back then. Considering they knew the tax hike was temporary <cough>, perhaps they should have presented a better case before Baron Von Madigan and the Taxaholics to get that money before it was gone. After all, tax revenues are to Illinois politicians as martinis were to Dean Martin. Consumed quickly.

So the state and local governments continue this tired dance. Cities pawn off extra unearned pension debt to the state. The state gets stingy on income tax sharing with its cities. Both cry foul. But at the end of the day, it’s the increasingly diminished and impaired taxpayer who pays, one way or another. But the state is the desperate bookie now, calling on overdue debts. And the enforcer is on his way to Oak Park to collect, with only the Hillside Strangler and those left-hand ramps on I-290 standing in his way.

Are we really surprised that it’s come to this? Where was my local state Senator Harmon’s concern for – as he put it – the resulting “fewer firefighters and police officers, slow snow removal and more pesky potholes” when Oak Park was spiking the pension punch and sticking the state with the bill? Perhaps Senator Harmon could use some of the over $100,000 worth of teacher union PAC money he received over the years to fill those “pesky” potholes. And why were the “Voices for Illinois Children” eerily silent as spiking happened across the state? That was the children’s money, right?  Perhaps they should have teamed up with the “Stand for Children Illinois” or one of the assortment of children-proxy PAC’s roaming the cornfields of Illinois and asked to reroute those spike funds their way instead. In-between all the talking and the standing, the children might want to ask Harmon and the other politicians exactly where they stand in the political pecking order. Better yet, allow me…SEIU, IEA, IFT, AFSCME, everybody else…

So whom exactly is the victim here? And who’s chopping whom? It’s hard to tell from my vantage point. Besides, I’m too busy watching my wallet float away.

As tax hike fades, public unions rage

Ah, New Years Day. I feel 1.25% more wealthy this year. And bloated. 1.25% more wealthy and bloated. Usually after the holidays, it’s just bloated. But not this year.

Cold. Hard. Cash. That’s not the sound of pennies janglin’ in my pocket. No siree. Those are actual quarters. Look out NBA Jam, I’m coming for you, and this time, I’m the Indiana Pacers. Detlef All Day.


The <taxpaying> citizens of IL received a New Years Day gift this year. Well, I guess when something is supposed to happen as scheduled, planned, and promised – even though some people fight vigorously to back out of said schedule, plan, and promise –  is it still really a gift? Maybe this is how Sweetest Day came to be?

The IL state income tax hike was PARTIALLY rolled back to 3.75% from 5% on January 1. This would not have happened if the voters of this state didn’t tell Quinn to pack up his rusty reel lawn mower and go home. You see, Gov. Temp-to-Perm-to-JustGoAwayAlready wanted to make the tax hike permanent, but the citizens said “how about NO.” It was a minor win for the working folks of this state. But I’ll take minor wins. I’m used to it…I lived through the Dave Wannstedt years.

You and I may be happy, but our favorite local public unions and their retirees are surely not. They are aghast…AGHAST, I SAY…that the tax rate went down. Especially the retirees, who continue to back tax policies that keep rates 67-100% higher than when they worked. Or they’re all for a progressive income tax that violates the document they hold so sacred…the Illinois Constitution. And with this rollback, all those progressive tax rates floated out there pretty much amount to tax hikes for everyone (funny how no new alternate progressive tax plans based on the current tax rates have been proposed, huh?). Well, almost everyone…

You see, our state pensioners are NOT taxed by the state. Illinois is in such financial peril, yet not one single plan endorsed by any public union calls for taxing retirement income of ANY form. When I say retirement income, I really mean THEIR pension income. According to the BGA, there are 30,000 pensioners are pulling in over $80,000 in pension benefits this year. Still, the public unions can’t find a way to have THEM contribute ANYTHING? Not even progressively? Not even at all? Nope, still a big, fat, flat Z-E-R-O. Forever and ever. As a Harvard Professor is to Obamacare, our public sector unions are to fair taxes.

I have no idea how long this tax rollback will last. The over/under is 6 months. But even if that’s the case, I’ll take what I can get for as long as I can get it. Queue up the music, John Tesh. It’s been a few years, but I’m ready to play.