News from Your President:
March 30, 2017 Letter from Your President, Bonnie Henry:
I’m guessing many of you are looking forward to Spring/Summer. To help you develop your plans, I want to mention an important program HCAA is hosting on June 2. We are bringing the new Executive Director of SURS, Martin Noven, to campus. Perhaps you’re wondering why that would be important to you.
As you know, SURS is collecting and has collected our pension payments and manages the fund that pays monthly pension checks. The new Executive Director manages all that and since we have not for some time hosted such a program, we’re thinking an update in particular about the relative health of the fund from an expert would be of value. For example, is the pension fund in dire straits, as some continue to say? We’re requesting that you make a reservation, no later than April 15, as we are inviting members from other chapters to join us and we want to give you first chance to participate. Please see details at the end of this email.
We will be holding an HCAA Board Meeting at the end of the program and invite any of you who have considered serving on the Board to that meeting. Please let me know if you are interested in attending and I’ll provide more details. Please don’t just move on to the next paragraph without giving this idea some serious consideration. Many of us have served on the Board for some time and feel a need to move on. We also could use some fresh ideas and new energy. Please don’t let HCAA fade away as has happened at other campuses. The pay isn’t great–actually there is none, but the new friendships are well worth the price of involvement. Many of us worked side by side but we didn’t really get to know each other. Service on the HCAA Board changes that. Please step forward.
I know that a good number of you have get-togethers with former colleagues. I think all of us would enjoy hearing about those. Please send pictures, along with names to Jeanne Pankanin at email@example.com.
Perhaps some of you remember working with Martha Brown who worked with hearing impaired students at Harper. She has passed away. In 1990 she moved to San Jose, CA and worked with deaf programs there. She retired in 2010 from Ohione Community College as Dean of Counseling.
I have been asked to mention that a retirement open house is being help for Linda Alberts Frank on Wednesday, May 3 from 11:00 AM-1:00 PM in A-238.
In addition, Renee Zellner is retiring and her retirement party is scheduled for July 28. Please contact Renee or me is you want more information.
Apparently, in my last email, I caused some confusion. Some of you could not understand how the pension legislation proposed as part of the Grand Bargain would hurt people already retired. The harm to those still working was obvious, but not the harm to those still working. The bottom line is this: any time less money is paid into the pension fund, e.g. by current workers foregoing raises and thus making smaller contributions, less money will be available to grow the fund. Retirees rely on contributions of current workers, among other things to ensure dollars will be available to pay our pensions. I hope this explanation helps.
Finally, yes I said finally. Many of you wrote to express your thanks for the “donut hole” story and to send well wishes. I so much appreciate hearing from you! Kipp is doing better and holding his own. Life has so many ups and downs and it helps to know we’re not alone. I know many of you have your own struggles and I hope knowing that many HCAA members are there for you, brings comfort.
March 2017 Letter from Your President, Bonnie Henry:
Dear HCAA Members,
Following is a good summary of the current Illinois proposed legislation. Of particular importance to us in regard to our pensions is SB 16. Passage of this would be harmful to all of us–and not just those who are currently working. If it were to be passed, it likely would result in costly ligation.
At this point in time, SUAA opposes SB 16, but has taken no position on other portions of the proposal.
I hope you find this information of value.
Senate’s grand bargain
The Senate’s so-called “grand bargain” is a package of bills from Senate President John Cullerton and Minority Leader Christine Radogno that propose a variety of revenue enhancements, cost-cutting measures and “reforms.” Each bill contains a caveat; the bill does not become law unless all the other bills in the package also become law. Over the last few weeks, during negotiations on the Senate package some bills originally included have since been dropped. At this time, the package consists of Senate bills 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 10, 12, 13 and 16.
The General Assembly voted on several bills in the package on Tuesday, including SB 16,which makes changes to current Tier 1 pension members. However, the bill failed on a vote of 26-27-2 and was placed on postponed consideration. On Wednesday the package stalled when the governor’s office told Senate Republicans that, in its current state, the package was unacceptable. At this time, it is unknown whether action will be taken in the future.
SB 1 (Cullerton, J., D-Chicago) is a placeholder bill for school funding reform but does not currently contain any substantive language. This bill has no amendments and no action was taken.
SB 3 (Cullerton, T., D-Villa Park) would allow counties to dissolve local governments by referendum, similar to the consolidation that exists in DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties. The bill passed the Senate 43-14.
SB 4 (Trotter, D-Chicago) authorizes the state to issue $7 billion in restructuring bonds to pay the backlog of bills owed to vendors and local governments. There were several amendments filed to this bill but no action was taken.
SB 5 (Cullerton, J., D-Chicago) requires the state to contribute $215 million to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund in FY17, $220 million in FY18 and pay the amount of normal cost for pensions to the fund going forward beginning in FY19. This bill passed the Senate 35-22-1 on Feb. 28.
SB 6 (Cullerton, J., D-Chicago) is a supplemental appropriation to fund higher education, human services, group health insurance and state operations for the remainder of this fiscal year. This bill passed the Senate 42-16-1 on Feb. 28.
SB 7 (Link, D-Gurnee) creates new casino/riverboat licenses and makes changes to existing gaming operations and laws within the State. This bill passed the Senate 31-26 on Feb. 28.
SB 8 (Harmon, D-Oak Park) reforms the state procurement process. This bill passed the Senate 41-16-2 on Feb. 28.
SB 9 (Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights) is a revenue bill designed to generate funds from a variety of sources including increasing the personal and corporate income tax, addressing corporate loopholes and increasing or reinstating certain tax credits. Several amendments were filed to this bill but no action was taken.
SB 10 (Cullerton, J., D-Chicago) amends the Illinois Municipal Code to allow a home rule municipality to enter into agreements regarding revenue from the state. The bill has not yet been acted upon.
SB 12 (Radogno, R-Lemont) reforms the workers’ compensation law. Several amendments were filed to this bill but no action was taken.
SB 13 (Radogno, R-Lemont) establishes a temporary property tax freeze and provides mandate relief for school districts, including greater flexibility in scheduling physical education, using commercial driving schools for driver education and contracting with third parties for non-instructional services. Several amendments were filed to this bill but no action was taken.
SB 16 (Cullerton, D-Chicago) is a pension cutting proposal that forces TRS and SURS members to choose between giving up the 3 percent compounded cost of living adjustment (COLA) or maintaining the 3 percent compounded COLA, but not having any future salary increases be used in the calculation of the annuity. Participants choosing the first option would move from a 3 percent compounded COLA to a simple COLA based on the original annuity which would be payable at age 67 or five years after retirement, whichever occurs first. In return, these participants would be allowed to include any future salary increases towards the pension calculation.
- Mar. 17 – Bills out of Committee (Senate)
- Mar. 31 – Bills out of Committee (House)
- Apr. 28 – 3rd Reading deadline (both chambers)
- May 12 – Deadline for House bills to get out of Senate Committee
- May 19 – Deadline for Senate bills to get out of House Committee
- May 26 – Final 3rd Reading deadline (both chambers)
- May 31 – Adjournment
A schedule for each chamber can be found on the General Assembly website.
The Senate and House will next be in session Tuesday, March 7.
February 2017 Letter from Your President:
Dear HCAA Members,
So much is going on (or not going on depending on your perspective) both in Illinois and nationally that my head is spinning with all the possibilities and implications! I’m sure each of us has made decisions about the amount/kind of news we want to hear/see. Personally, there are days when, if I am able, I just take a vacation from learning about what is going on outside my own personal domain. I’m not entirely sure if I do that because of my age (which I try not to blame for everything!) or if it is what I need to do just to handle the onslaught.
However there are other times when I feel compelled to action as it at least feels as if I have some measure of control. So whether you are a person who devours all the news/information you can get or like me, needs to take time away periodically, I encourage you to do what you can to stay apprised of what is going on that you believe has a direct impact on you and others you care about.
As members of SUAA and as retirees or soon to be, our chief interest surely must be about our pensions. Hopefully, you read the SUAA mini-briefings, the SURS Advocate (and know there is a new Executive Director), news reports, the myhcaa.com website and do what you can to stay apprised about the financial condition of our retirement fund, State payments and whatever is being “cooked up” legislatively to affect pensions.
Although we know the pension portion of the “Grand Bargain” failed recently in the State Senate, we also know that work is underway to submit additional legislation that, if passed, would negatively impact pensions–even for those of us who are retired. It is very important for us to realize that money coming into the pension system has a direct impact on its ability to come out in the form of our pensions. Yes, the State Supreme Court ruled that our pensions are protected and nearly everyone seems to accept that, but attempts to change the pensions of those still working not only would have a negative impact on them but on retirees as well. In addition to which, I believe everything that has and is being proposed will be proven to be unconstitutional–after another costly legal battle. So please, stay alert; stay informed.
This is what the Governor said relative to increasing revenue for the State in his address yesterday:
Among the most unpopular portions of the package (Grand Bargain) are a hike of the income tax rate to 4.99 percent — which is viewed as politically unpopular in many circles.
“Over time, as our economy grows and revenues expand, any increase in the income tax could be stepped down — dedicating future surpluses to taxpayers, not more government spending,” Rauner said.
Rauner spoke of his support of broadening the sales tax base to mirror Wisconsin’s — but said he won’t support a tax on groceries and medicine, or a tax on retirement incomes. He also spoke of his support for raising the earned-income tax credit and the research-and-development tax credit.
Senators had discussed the idea of removing the state sales tax exemption from food and drugs, but that change never made it into an amendment of the plan’s revenue bill.
Moving on to something more personal, I want to share as briefly as I can, my husband’s and my experience with the “Donut Hole”. I’m guessing that most of you are like me; you never thought you would have to deal with this issue. Even for those of you with a number of prescriptions, you didn’t see yourself as reaching this point. That certainly was true of us! However there are life-saving drugs that put one in the Donut Hole with just one prescription. My husband who has cancer was treated previously with intravenous chemotherapy, blood transfusions, steroids and other drugs–all well covered by insurance. He has recently relapsed and in addition to the intravenous chemo, was told he needed to take a relatively new “miracle drug”. His doctor for months now had commented that all kinds of new drugs were being approved to help patients with his type of cancer. So we were thrilled to learn there was a drug available that might prolong my husband’s life–until we learned that the cost of the drug to us (with the donut hole and subsequent co-pays) was approximately $12,000 a year!
That gave us pause. My husband wondered if staying alive was worth the price. Well, we got beyond that and learned more about paying for the drug. We learned that help is available for people who truly cannot afford the drug–how much we don’t know because fortunately, we don’t fall in that category. With both of us having life-long careers in higher education, we are fortunate enough to afford the drug–it’s just not how we wanted to spend our money. But we fully understand that for many people this kind of expense would be a major hardship.
I share our story because I am aware that this kind of thing could happen to any of us. I’m not suggesting you start hoarding your money just in case, but perhaps you can be a little more aware–prepared than we were. In case you are wondering, he stayed with Blue Cross when the State changed our insurance program. I went with United Health Care. From what I can tell UHC would cover the drug much the same as Blue Cross–which actually is costing us slightly under $10,000–better than we were told. I think it is also important to note that it was our doctor who connected us with the pharmacist who provides the drug. The pharmacist provided us with all the information about when and how much we would be paying. It all works through the drug company, medicare and our insurance. Drug insurance does not cover the entire cost of these expensive drugs but without it we would not be able to ever afford them!
I’m guessing there may be others of you have had a similar experience making it to the Donut Hole. If you want to tell your story and share it with other members, please let me know.
My best to all of you. As we grow older, we learn more and more that everyday is precious and I hope you are spending yours in ways that make you most happy!
- View the November 14, 2016 Board Meeting notes here.
- View the September 19, 2016 Board Meeting notes here.
- View the August 16, 2016 Board Meeting notes here.
- View the May, 2016 Annual Meeting notes here.
- View the May 25, 2016 Board Meeting notes here.
- View the April 18, 2016 Board Meeting notes here.
- View the February 3, 2016 Board Meeting notes here.