State Rep. Kelly Cassidy | Sun-Times Library
Updated: February 1, 2013 6:06AM
The Sun-Times’ recent article “Retired State Workers in the Cross Hairs of State’s Pension Crisis” was in many ways a refreshing change from the stories we are accustomed to seeing highlighting abuses of the system and gold-plated pensions, calling for sweeping changes that would treat all workers as if they were the beneficiaries of six-figure pensions. For months, as legislators, we have been frustrated both by the one-dimensional stories and the proposals that would harm those with the least responsibility for the state’s fiscal woes. To finally see a focus on the real people at the center of this debate hopefully means that we can finally have a reality-based conversation that will lead to some workable solutions.
At the end of the veto session, a bipartisan coalition of House members introduced HB6258, a new approach to solving the pension issue. When I stood up at the press conference introducing the bill, I spoke of a constituent who came to my office seeking assistance finding affordable housing. Zoe cried as she talked to me about her $800-per-month in pension that represented her only income and her fears about what would happen to her if the bills that had been written about in the press were to pass. I have carried her story with me as we have made our way through many proposals that would do serious harm to the workers who did not create this problem.
Central to our bill is a fundamental awareness that what we do as a legislative body will ultimately impact real people who have dedicated their lives to public service. Many of us acted on this bill out of a desire to prevent something worse from passing.
HB6258 does just that by protecting the full, compounded COLA for retirees making $25,000 or less in pension ($20,000 for those also eligible for Social Security). The average public employee pension is $32,000, not the exorbitant sums that have been used to demonize public employees for the last two years. In addition, current employees nearing retirement would be shielded from some of the other changes by a phased-in change to the retirement age and the grandfathering in of pensionable salaries higher than the social security wage rate used to set future caps.
Kelly Cassidy, state representative, 14th District
state representative, 14th District
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The whole truth
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