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Column

STATEHOUSE INSIDER: Big mess brewing for Democrats

Pension task force pitches a fix

So much for bringing some temporary peace to the Senate Democrats.

Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, resigned as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee last week, something any number of public officials, including other Senate Democrats, had said should happen since the feds raided his home and offices.

The Senate Democrats also headed off a continued court challenge when they released a copy of the federal search warrant without the extensive censoring they did the first time around. WBEZ public radio sued, contending the Democrats went too far.

Of course, with more information made public, it set off another feeding frenzy as people tried to surmise why this person or that was involved in the investigation and what exactly the feds are poking around for.

From the stuff that's been made public so far, this is a very big investigation that appears to go well beyond one state lawmaker. That means the news media is going to keep pursuing it and it's probably going to remain an albatross for Senate Democrats for a good long time.

"The Illinois Democratic Party is a crime ring masquerading as a political party," said Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider, in another well-reasoned comment on current events in the state.

Pension news

Gov. J.B. Pritzker trotted out the results of his pension consolidation task force last week.

And since the full name was the Illinois Pension Consolidation Feasibility Task Force, it wasn't too surprising that the task force recommended combining the assets of downstate police and fire pension funds.

The problem is, as pension funds go, a lot of these are pretty dinky. Some 79 percent of them have assets of $30 million or less. The task force also determined that overall, these funds didn't do a very good job of investing, since their investment returns lagged behind those of bigger systems. Combining their assets would give them leverage to get better returns.

Pritzker acknowledged that people with a vested interest in the current system will try to scuttle this idea. Still, he wants lawmakers to take it up during the veto session.

It will prove an interesting choice for lawmakers. Usually, they bend over backwards to accommodate first responders. In this case, though, police groups are opposed to the consolidation while firefighters support it. Lawmakers will have to make a choice.

"If adopted by the General Assembly (it) would be a momentous achievement in the history of our state."

"You arrived at a solution. That, in and of itself, is truly monumental progress."

"This plan is a dramatic step forward."

"You have 649 funds that are going to become two. That's a momentous change."

"The task force has come forward with a very important change to the way we do business with regard to pensions that will significantly improve the funding of the pension systems."

"This does move us drastically forward."

This was Pritzker calmly assessing the work of the pension consolidation task force.

Governor doesn't need a pension

The Forbes 400 list of America's richest people was released last week, and the extended Pritzker family remains a fixture on it.

Not that any of the Pritzkers is all that rich. Jeff Bezos tops the list with a net worth of $114 billion. By comparison, the Pritzkers are just the common folk.

The governor comes in 250th on the list with a net worth of $3.4 billion. As Ralph Kramden would say, a mere bag of shells.

There are nine Pritzkers on the list. The wealthiest of the family is Karen, a cousin to the governor, with a net worth of $5 billion. She comes in at 131st on the overall list. And for the record, there are five other Pritzkers who are worth less than the governor.

And in case anyone still cares, Illinois' former Gov. Bruce Rauner didn't make the list.

Contact Doug Finke at doug.finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.

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