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 Any opinions expressed are those of the writers. citizens...promises broken

By Jim Killebrew

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[October 02, 2014]  Last February 2013 retired citizens of Illinois who dedicated their lives by working for the state were disappointed. The State made a promise to those people who began their career back in the 1960's and 70's. That promise stated if you agree to work at a lower salary than most of the other states in comparable jobs, to work in the positions that take care of people with developmental disabilities, guard prisoners, administer countless programs built to improve the lives of those in poverty, make sure the court system in Illinois administers justice for each citizen, lead orphaned children through the maze of foster care, looking after the requirements of service providers to furnish the highest quality of services to Elder adults, build and repair highways, implement policies generated by the administrations, and obey the laws established by the lawmakers, then the lower salaries paid would be compensated by the state providing the cost of insurance during your retirement. That promise was backed up by the Illinois Constitution that stated the annuities of retired state employees could not be "diminished" by state action.

The Illinois Speaker of the House who put forth the Bill said, "We have no contract" with those people. I believe that says it all. We didn't have a contract; what we had was a promise. What we had was a promise with politicians. Of course the Constitution must have meant nothing, at least nothing regarding a "contract" than can be so easily smashed by the political system.

This article is not meant to decry the loss of the retiree benefit of state-paid health insurance, since the Illinois Supreme Court has since restored the benefit to state retired employees ruling the Constitution must be followed by the politicians. Most reasonably prudent people realize the state is hopelessly in debt and will need to do something to right the ship before it sinks entirely. The current group of retirees are those people who were born in the 1940s and 1950s who were born to a generation of parents who were called the "Greatest Generation." We have been labeled as "War Babies" or the "Baby Boomer" generations. We learned from our parents not only that we should love God and country, but we learned our responsibilities for family, neighbor and our community exceptionalism that drives us to dependence on God and each other as well as our own self-reliance. By-and-large the majority of current state Retirees did grumble when the state politicians made their move against them, but they moved on, picked themselves up and made the best of it just like their parents taught them to do. So, again, this article is not meant to complain about the loss of the insurance specifically, but the process and thought behind the actions of the political structure in place to allow such a thing to happen.

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It is meant to sound a warning. A warning that something far more important has been lost along the way...integrity "the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards." Illinois (and the nation) are in this financial mess because of past plundering of taxpayer resources and actions of those few, or more than a few, who have seen the open troughs of public monies and have apparently engaged in a feeding frenzy for themselves and their friends. "Earmarks" they have called them, "pork-barrel" is another name we have heard over the years. Programs, tax-breaks, incentives, lavish life-styles; all at the public expense. People who have won elective offices, some of whom, over the years who have been granted that voter-public trust and given fair salaries for their service, have somehow found ways to leave their office as millionaires. We have shaken our heads and wondered how that had happened. For evidence of misuse we need not look any further than two federal prisons where at least one (the other has been released for house arrest) former State of Illinois governors sit incarcerated for trashing the public trust.

Now, although this is a problem we face in Illinois, we can see it is a problem throughout the nation as well. So for everyone in America I say, "Take heed"!

This warning is meant for the ears of the generations who belong to our posterity: Take heed what politician's promises mean as you look at the final outcomes of those promises made in the past. Examine closely not only the promises, but the integrity of the person who makes that promise. Today's politicians, as aptly pointed out by the Illinois Speaker of the House, work only from "contracts" because the promises made are readily broken. Take heed, however, even when that "contract" is the Constitution, we must be aware that politicians will even break that contract with it is in their best interest to do so.


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