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Next governor can’t owe the unions

BY EDEN MARTIN: Theoretically, a successful candidate might accept union support but afterward ignore those expectations. He might insist on facilities closings, salary freezes, work-rule changes and restructuring retirement benefits — and more charter schools. But in the real world of Illinois politics, that won’t happen.

A way forward to equal opportunity: charter schools

Precision and clarity have never been the hallmarks of campaign speeches or political slogans. So President Obama’s recent State of the Union speech was a welcome contribution to the debate about whether equality of income should be a policy objective of government. What is important …

Some questions on bankruptcy, pensions for GOP gov candidates

With Illinois’ primary election only about a month away — March 18 — the Republican candidates for governor are talking about their views on minimum wages, term limits and the like. It seems to me that the most important issues have to do with the …

Results matter with Bruce Rauner, not his watch

Supporters of some of the establishment Republican candidates for governor and a few media commentators are now taking shots at political newcomer and present front-runner Bruce Rauner. Some say he has an “arrogant” streak, and others claim it’s hypocritical for a wealthy candidate to refer …

$10 minimum wage? Why stop there?

Gov. Pat Quinn, running for re-election in 2014, reportedly will make his main campaign theme the need for more income equality in Illinois. Specifically, he will call for an increase in the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.00 per hour. Some skeptics have suggested that …

Christmas lamb had lasting effect

BY EDEN MARTIN. My grandfather, I.J. Martin, was a little boy in 1865 when the Civil War was coming to an end. He lived with his family on a farm outside a small central Illinois town. His father was a farmer, carpenter and part-time Baptist preacher.

Springfield’s deal won’t fix pension crisis

Now that the details have been disclosed, it’s pretty clear that a proposed deal announced Wednesday by Illinois’ legislative leaders would not fix the state’s pensions or solve its fiscal problems. First, the state’s current pension plans are far too generous and too costly — …

Lincoln at Gettysburg: Why we fight

EDEN MARTIN: A few days ago America remembered the speech delivered by President Lincoln at the soldiers’ cemetery in Gettysburg a little over four months after the Union army victory. Editorial writers and TV journalists rightly praised the address for its elegance and brevity. The praise was appropriate, but I think most commentators missed Lincoln’s main point — one that has continuing relevance today.

New song, old tune with pension “reform” at Chicago Park District

The Chicago Park District recently negotiated a deal, since approved by the Illinois Legislature, to modify the district’s pensions by feathering down the costs (through COLA adjustments, increasing retirement ages) and increasing funding. The Park District pension deal continues the deferred-funding approach embedded in the structure of the state’s and city pension systems — an approach that goes back to the 1990’s and is in large part responsible for the looming pension catastrophe.

Hopeless state pension plan coming down the pike

If Senate President John Cullerton’s proposal were accepted, organized labor would publicly complain about how unfair and hurtful it is. But privately they would be celebrating.

The message of Detroit: Feds won’t bail out cities

Sometimes the big news is what we don’t hear — Sherlock Holmes’ dog that doesn’t bark. Something like that happened late last month in Detroit. Senior Obama administration officials, including the attorney general and secretaries of Transportation and HUD, met in Detroit with members of …

Back to basics on fixing state pensions

The quest for a public employee pension reform “compromise” goes on. It’s an arm-wrestling contest in Springfield to find some combination of reform (cost-reduction) and funding elements that will attract enough votes to pass both the state House and Senate. It’s about power, not about …

With term limits, boot out career pols

According to pollsters, proposals to establish legislative term limits are extremely popular, both nationally and in Illinois. The interesting question is — why?

How pension mess could get worse

Here’s what our Illinois Constitution — Article XIII, Section 5 — has to say about pensions: “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district … shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which …

Can Chicago have a bailout too?

The idea of a federal bailout for Detroit’s broken pension funds seems to have gone nowhere with the Obama Administration. So folks here are wondering: can we get a state bailout for Chicago, which has six pension funds with $28 billion in unfunded liabilities? Is …

Five ways unions will fight Illinois pension reform

Leaders of organized labor have cobbled together a plan not only to defeat serious pension reform but also to strengthen their position.

Why a progressive income tax is a bad idea

Democratic legislative leaders in Springfield reportedly plan to propose a state constitutional amendment that would permit “graduated” rates in income taxes imposed on individuals and corporations. The proposed amendment would be put to the voters in November 2014. If approved, the legislature could then — …