Illinois state Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) on the House floor | repugaste.com
A new Southern Illinois University study that concludes more than half of all Illinois residents now stand in favor of a constitutional amendment designed to cap out-of-control public pensions gives state Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) a glimmer of hope.
“What gives you hope is that the public has finally had enough,” Ugaste told the McHenry Times. “Being in Springfield, you know something like that is nothing elected officials are ever going to advocate for.”
Researchers found that more than half of all state residents express support for a change to the system that, while honoring the benefits of all retired public employees, would allow for a reduction in benefits of all current and all future state workers.
“I’ve always said anything that’s been earned has to be honored,” Ugaste added. “Beyond that, I’ve strongly advocated for changes to the system going forward, especially when it comes to new employees that should be placed into a 401K-like system. The system we have is just not sustainable.”
Deeper analysis also shows that the measure holds support across multiple sectors, with 46% of individuals earning under $50,000 expressing support, 50% of those earning up to $100,000 and 57% of those topping $100,000. In addition, residents over the age of 66 showed the most support by that measure at 54%.
Still, Ugaste worries that change may not come soon enough for the cash-strapped state.
“I just don’t know if anything differently will be done anytime soon,” he said. “We’ll see, but for something like this to be put on the ballot by the legislature it means the other side has to grow an appetite for it and that’s just not there.”
Still, with Illinois already being home to the worse pension crisis in the country, Ugaste said he thinks he knows why Democrats fight as hard as they do to prop up a broken system.
“It seems very obvious to me that they benefit from it politically,” he said. “The people that benefit from it support those in power and all the politicians aren’t about to just let that go.”