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Encourage, don’t dismiss, citizen input

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Congratulations to Doug Finke of GateHouse News Service, whose hard-hitting investigative work finally exposed the Illinois Policy Institute for what the organization really is: a group of individuals who personally care about Illinois’ well-being.

His latest column attempted to paint the picture that support for converting Illinois’ troubled pension system to a 401(k)-style plan is manufactured and fake.

Finke’s column was dismissive of more than 250 Illinoisans who officially went on record to support the strongest and most comprehensive pension reform package in Springfield.

The Illinois Policy Institute worked with state Rep. Tom Morrison to craft the policy choices supporting House Bill 3303. By setting up a fair and stable defined contribution plan going forward, it protects already-earned benefits for government workers while also watching out for taxpayers.

This legislation would cut Illinois’ unfunded pension debt in half – saving more money than any other pension legislation introduced so far.

But Finke failed to acknowledge important details. He singled out institute staff members who have chosen to exercise their rights as citizens and personally endorse House Bill 3303 through the General Assembly’s online witness system. In doing so, Finke devalued the engagement of hundreds of ordinary people who believe in fair pension reform.

House Bill 3303 had more proponents as indicated by official witness slips than any other major pension benefit reform bill heard in committee this year by a factor of 16. Supporters included a retired Teamster, a homemaker, small business owner, forensic scientist with the state police, retired University of Illinois pensioner, a musician, a designer, county board member, faculty member of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, a trucker, and so on.

With too many politicians treading water on the pension crisis, ordinary people will need to step up more than ever. Citizen engagement should be encouraged rather than dismissed with cavalier cynicism.

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