Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the state budget and legislation related to a graduated income tax in … [+]
Which matters more:
Providing the necessary funding for the intellectually disabled to be able to access group homes and day programs after they age out of the public school system?
Or preserving, in the state pension plans, the 3% fixed annual cost-of-living increases, and unreduced retirement as early as age 55*?
The Chicago Tribune today featured as its lead editorial: “Why aren’t adults with developmental disabilities getting community care faster? Short answer: It’s Illinois.”
This was a follow up to a report on Tuesday, “Why adults with developmental disabilities are waiting seven years, or longer, for programs they need to live on their own.“ which reported that
“[N]early 20,000 people with developmental disabilities in Illinois . . . are on a waiting list to get into adult programs. Many of them come from families who don’t have a way to pay for home care, job coaches or other services.
“Most wait an average of seven years before they are selected, despite a court order in 2011 that Illinois shrink the list and do other things to improve how it serves developmentally disabled adults.”
“Kathy Carmody, CEO of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities, traces the problems to years of political decisions by both parties. ‘This is an Illinois issue,’ she said. ‘There is a decades long history of decay and neglect, but we have to start righting the ship to ensure that the community services remain an option for people.’”
The editorial explains further:
“The state reimburses care providers less than the minimum wage for workers, leaving the organization to pay the difference itself or skimp on staffing. The Illinois attorney general’s office said in a recent filing that staffing problems have resulted in ‘estrictions in community integration opportunities, overworked staff and significant overtime being paid.’”
What does this have to do with pensions?
Only that the refusal of JB Pritzker and others to consider true pension reform doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
When adding up the state’s contributions to pension funds, its payments on Pension Obligation Bonds, and its spending on medical benefits for retirees, a full 25% or more of the state’s budget is going to pension and pension-related spending. (See the Wirepoints calculation and the Illinois Policy Institute calculation; a similar calculation by the Civic Federation placed the figure at 20% based only on pension contributions.)
What’s more, the Illinois Policy Institute further spelled out some of the ways in which government social services spending has been cut in the past decade while pension spending has been growing, and, indeed, spending on the Developmental Disability Community Transitions program has dropped by 81% from 2010 to 2020.
This is infuriating.
Pritzker promises that all our troubles will be over when the state implements a graduated income tax and when revenue starts to flow into state coffers from all the pot its residents will be smoking come January. But this is a fairy tale. Without a real, lasting reform to pensions, the disabled will be left waiting for the funding boost they need.
*The specific early retirement provisions vary by plan:
- Age 60 with 10 years of service or 55 with 35 years, for teachers;
- Age 60 with 8 years of service or with 85 age + service points, for state employees; and
- Age 62 with 5 years, age 60 with 8 years, or at any age with 30 years of service, for state university employees,
in each case, for those employees hired before 2011.
What do you think? You’re invited to comment at JaneTheActuary.com!