The state runs the teacher retirement system – and into the ground is the likely destination. Teachers pay in dutifully. The state has not paid in regularly over the years.

Beyond that there are many factors. But here’s one. School districts across the state have been screwing the system for years. During the entire misbegotten early retirement era – we’ll save money by getting rid of the old, better paid teachers! – districts have been sweetening retirement packages by jolting salaries in the final years of employment.

Pensions are based on the last years of salary before retirement. But the school districts actively, unconscionably did not care because they weren’t paying the pensions. The state was.

Now Gov. Pat Quinn is suggesting shifting some or all of the teacher pension costs back to the districts so they have to act more responsibly. Of course, this is the ultimate political punt and stunt.

The state wasn’t responsible when it didn’t pay into the pension. The local schools were hastening the mayhem when they ratcheted late-inning salaries.

Now the reverse. Illinois has hundreds and hundreds of local pension boards which oversee the retirements of, among others, police and firefighters. But they are often hamstrung following state mandates that require, for example, that cops and firefighters can retire at absurdly early ages.

So you’ve got the local school districts messing with the state’s teacher retirement system and running up the payouts. And you’ve got the state imposing ridiculous mandates on the supposedly locally controlled pension boards.

The pension problem is real. There is blame to go around. So the challenge is to find actual solutions – and we need a series of solutions – that meet commitments already made, scale back promises that aren’t constitutionally locked-in, reduce future obligations, and allow taxpayers to survive as part of the middle class and government to fund current programs beyond just pensions.

Any day now.


Paying up

No one likes another bill in the mail, especially a past due bill you’re not expecting. In the past couple of weeks, thousands of Brookfield residents got such bills in the mail regarding 2011 vehicle stickers.

Brookfield officials identified nearly 6,000 vehicles whose owners hadn’t purchased stickers in 2011, and sent them a love letter on April 30, demanding not only that the owners buy a sticker in 2012, but pay – with a late fee – for last year’s sticker as well.

For those who say they didn’t understand the rules for vehicle stickers or didn’t know they existed, they’re out of luck.

And, really, that’s the way it has to be. Ignorance of a law is not an excuse for not complying with it. Many thousands of fellow residents have been forking over the 40 bucks a year for their vehicle stickers. They don’t like it either, but they pay it. It’s only fair their neighbors should have to pay for theirs, too.

Brookfield chose only to collect for 2011, which is a reasonable period of time. And remember, the 2012 stickers need to be purchased by July 1.