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A graduated income tax should be tied to pension reform

Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveils his graduated income tax plan during a press conference in the governor's office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield earlier this month. | Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

If you’re going to change the state income tax provision in the Illinois Constitution, as Gov. Pritzker proposes, then also remove the clause that locks in pensions for state workers and says they can’t be “impaired or diminished.” Do both, and tie them together — both or neither. The language to make state employee pensions free from being “impaired or diminished” was promoted by state employees, and the state employees will take to the streets to protect themselves, no matter who pays for it.

Removing the pension limitation in the state constitution would have no effect on the present bargaining agreement. It would give the state the freedom to seek improvements and cost savings in the future.

Who else gets a 3 percent compounded annual pension or pay increase?

Robert Kastigar, Albany Park

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Lessons from California on pensions, taxes

I read your editorial “A tax for Illinois that, thankfully, puts the middle class first,” (March 10). What I can never understand is why there is no corresponding call from your paper to enact real pension and public employment reform first, prior to a call for more taxation?

As a resident of California, where we are currently indebted to the tune of nearly $1 trillion for retired government workers, and where we suffer the highest tax rates in the country, we face constant calls for, and have approved, multiple tax increases over the years. Yet the problem goes uncorrected and the liabilities have multiplied exponentially. As a result, California is facing the same exodus by the people who actually pay the taxes, similar to Illinois.

If the state would sweepingly reform the public payroll and retirement systems, I would gladly support new taxes to begin paying down our liabilities in order to secure a future for the coming generations. We have people retiring at young ages with $200,000 or higher pensions. We have completely ineffective educators who care only about their pay and benefits, not the children. The pay and benefit packages for public employment are double or triple that of the private sector. The list goes on. When the sinking ship of state keeps taking on water faster than it can be bailed out, then it’s time to abandon ship. We need to fix the leaks permanently.

Greg Gibson, California

Dump the “isms” and make government about what works

Enough with the isms already, capitalism, socialism, or any of the others. Government should be about what works — what’s practical, responsible, and, above all, what improves people’s lives. Too many treat the economy as a zero-sum game, someone wins and someone loses. Economic Darwinism. By definition, if you don’t make a living wage, you lose, and it’s your fault. That’s a very self-centered view of the world. That way lies more income inequality and more social and political instability.

The healthcare system is failing too many people. The education system is failing too many people. The justice system is failing too many people.

It’s a complicated world with complicated problems. One thing is not complicated: People with the resources to help more should be helping more.

Keep on the way we are going and our social and political structure will continue to fray and crumble, the same way our bridges are.

Michael Hart, West Ridge