by Jonathan Ingram Director of Health Policy and Pension Reform
John Kindt, a professor of business at the University of Illinois, really wants Amendment 49 defeated in November. He's been writing op-eds all over the state, doing interviews and speaking at town halls promising to "help you untangle the complicated language" of the proposed amendment.
His biggest argument is that the proposed amendment "overrules and destroys" the pension clause in the state constitution. He never actually explains his interpretation. Instead, he just points to the last sentence of the amendment, which he claims has "hidden" language that overrules the pension clause. So, let's take a look at what the last sentence actually says.
(d) Nothing in this Section shall prevent the passage or adoption of any law, ordinance, resolution, rule, policy, or practice that further restricts the ability to provide a "benefit increase," "emolument increase," or "beneficial determination" as those terms are used under this Section.
It's pretty straightforward. It simply says that nothing in Amendment 49 shall prevent further restricting benefit increases. That just means that the three-fifths majority rule is a floor, not a ceiling. The "hidden" language is nothing but a standard disclaimer explaining what the amendment does not do. It certainly doesn't create any independent authority that overrides the pension clause.
One has to wonder why Professor Kindt feels the need to resort to false scare tactics to fight a do-nothing amendment. Remember, Amendment 49 will not reduce the state's pension debt, which now totals more than $200 billion. And it would have done virtually nothing to stop the benefit increases and pension sweeteners we've seen over the past several decades. If lawmakers were serious about pension reform, they would have proposed an amendment to prohibit all benefit increases until the systems are fully funded, using risk-free accounting assumptions.
But instead of telling voters that this amendment is a classic case of fake reform, Professor Kindt is making arguments that only serve to provide political cover to lawmakers who falsely claim they're fixing the pension crisis with Amendment 49.