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Doing nothing while Illinois falls apart

The spring session of the Illinois Legislature ended in failure to adopt a serious budget. This is no longer about kicking cans down the road. The can is now an empty tank car — too big to kick. The Legislature’s failure invites renewed musing about …

No way around extending ‘temporary’ tax

I don’t believe that candidates should ever make promises as to what they will do in the future with respect to particular issues; and such promises they do make should not be regarded as binding.

Even after reform, pension debt will require tax hikes

The real issue in this year’s race for the Illinois governorship is not whether to reduce property taxes, or whether to let the “temporary” component of the income tax expire. Reducing property taxes would leave Chicago with even less ability to fund its pensions. Letting …

What a real governor could do

Why does it matter whom we elect as governor next fall, a young friend asked me recently. If Pat Quinn is re-elected, nothing much will change. We’ll have too many people on the payroll, and we’ll pay them more than market wages. Whether pension reform …

Putin rhetoric could come back to bite

If Putin is so committed to maintaining the right of minorities with different cultures and languages to exercise their right to self-determination — to secede and form their own countries — I wonder how he would feel about some of the Russian nationalities taking the same view.

Mayor’s pension deal goes right way

The mayor deserves credit for making two tough decisions: to reduce benefits (and costs) prospectively, and to start funding on an actuarial basis. And Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan deserves credit for making it happen. But several huge barriers remain.

Two longtime friends cross swords in gov race

Two long-time Democrats – and old friends – crossed swords this week in the Tribune. They grew up together and clerked on the Supreme Court together. Newt Minow, FCC chairman under President Kennedy, explained why he would be voting for Bruce Rauner for governor. Abner …

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.