Information posted 11/16/13

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From: 
“David Amerson, AFSCME Retirees” <webaction@afscmeillinois.org>
To: 
Sent: Thursday, November 14, 2013 5:04:34 PM
Subject: D-Day for pensions?

Important Updates for State of Illinois and State University Retirees

In This Bulletin:


D-Day for pensions – December 3? The General Assembly’s four legislative leaders have been meeting in secret for weeks to cook up a pension bill that they all agree on. Their plan is to jam it through in just a day or two without any time for public review or grassroots lobbying.

And now it looks like they’re moving forward with that plan. Word came out today that both the House and Senate have told legislators to come back into session the first week of December, most likely December 3.

Last spring the House and Senate passed vastly different bills, with the House backing SB 1, which makes steep cuts to the benefits of both active and retired employees, while the Senate supported SB 2404, which was negotiated with the We Are One Illinois union coalition and makes only modest changes to the pension plans.

Nobody knows yet what this new agreement is, but rumor has it that the final bill will be very close to SB 1, the plan backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan that would slash your pension benefits by more than 30%.

Now it looks like all four legislative leaders are prepared to put the squeeze on rank-and-file legislators who’ve stood with public employees and retirees in the past. It’s going to be critically important that your legislators hear from you—and that they know how strongly you oppose any bill that makes drastic cuts to your pension benefits.

We’ve got to be ready to take immediate action. The We Are One Illinois union coalition is putting a grassroots lobbying plan in place right now. Details will be coming to you soon. When you get the call, make sure you respond. There won’t be any second chances. If we don’t stop this bill now, it will almost certainly become law.

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Medicare Advantage info meetings get underway – Last week we sent you answers to the most-frequently asked questions AFSCME Retirees Chapter 31 has been getting about the changes to the state’s health insurance program for SERS and SURS retirees. This week meetings sponsored by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) got underway to provide a full explanation of how the new Medicare Advantage program will work. Meetings are scheduled at locations throughout the state. Click here for a list of all meetings and locations. Unless otherwise noted there will be two meetings at each location, one at 9:30 a.m. and another at 1:30 p.m.

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Dependent Verification Audit deadline – For the first time, the State of Illinois has hired an outside contractor to conduct a comprehensive audit of dependent eligibility for health care coverage. This Dependent Verification Audit, which is being conducted by HMS Employer Solutions, is now in progress. All retirees who are carrying a dependent on their state health insurance coverage are required to comply or risk losing their state health insurance benefits.

The deadline to comply with the audit is December 6th. Retirees Chapter 31 expressed objections to the manner in which the state is conducting this audit, but CMS was unwilling to make any changes to the procedure. All SERS and SURS retirees who have a covered dependent on their state insurance should be sure to comply with the audit instructions so as not to risk losing their state health insurance.

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Fixing the state’s finances – Among the most crucial resolutions passed by delegates to last month’s AFSCME Retirees Chapter 31 biennial convention was a measure to endorse A Better Illinois, the campaign to amend the Illinois Constitution and permit a “fair tax” – an income tax with higher rates for those with higher incomes, and lower rates for lower incomes.

Thirty-five other states already have such a fair tax structure in place, but our state’s constitution currently bars it here.

Without the fair tax, the state’s finances could get even worse. The temporary tax increase passed in 2010 is set to expire at the end of 2014, reducing state revenues by some $5 billion a year and threatening unthinkable cuts to vital services that would result in massive layoffs.

That’s why AFSCME Retirees is one of more than 100 organizations endorsing A Better Illinois and its campaign to replace the broken “flat tax” with a fair tax—one that allows higher rates for rich people and big corporations with higher incomes, and lower rates for working people and small businesses with lower incomes. A recent statewide poll found that 92% of voters agree that “the tax system in Illinois is broken and needs to be fixed,” 82% say that “too often, rich people avoid paying their fair of taxes” and 77% support an amendment to allow a fair tax in Illinois.

The fair tax requires amending the Constitution. This can only be done by the state Senate and House each passing a resolution with a super-majority before May 2014, then putting the question on the November 2014 ballot for approval by the voters.

The campaign has already built strong momentum. Today, more than 60 legislators are co-sponsoring legislation to allow the fair tax constitutional amendment to be placed on the November ballot. You can learn more about A Better Illinois at www.ABetterIllinois.org.

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Legislators fail to pay back wages – Legislators returned to Springfield for the Fall Veto Session with their pay problems solved. When Governor Quinn vetoed monies appropriated for their pay, they rushed to court to challenge his actions. In no time flat, the court ruled they should get their money. And they did.

But somehow many of them seem to think it’s OK not to pay the money that’s owed to state workers, some of whom have now retired without receiving the money they’re owed.

Legislators wrapped up the Veto Session without taking action on a supplemental appropriation to pay the money that’s owed.

While some retirees received all or a portion of their back pay as a result of pay-outs from funds AFSCME convinced the court to escrow for that purpose, others are still owed all or a portion of the wage increases that were withheld in FY 2011 and FY 2012.

During the second week of Veto Session, AFSCME held a Back Pay Action Day at the State Capitol to urge key legislators to speak out more strongly for action on a supplemental appropriation. Twenty-five teams of AFSCME local leaders from across the state travelled to Springfield to present “Collection Notices” to their legislators and press them to stand up wage justice. Almost every legislator they visited pledged to do more to help.

It’s crucial to keep the pressure on every legislator until all employees—active and retired—are paid the money they’re owed.

If you’re among those affected, call, e-mail, text or visit your state representative and state senator NOW to let them know how disappointed you are that the General Assembly failed to take action to ensure that you are paid the money you’re owed. Tell them that the next time they return to Springfield, paying this debt should be at the top of their list.

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from Better Illinois 2

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