Senator Don Harmon of Oak Park, Illinois, high in the ranks of the Ruling Party and leader of the Democratic Party of Oak Park, took to the podium at Oak Park’s Carleton Hotel on a day in late June of 2013 for his annual breakfast-event report to the Oak Park Business and Civic Council.
It was time once more to explain things to bankers, business owners and operators, and other issues-aware citizens and taxpayers with varying amounts and shapes of skin in the game, including the joy and satisfaction that arises from the taste and smell of progressive politics.
The state was in turmoil. The two legislative chambers were at odds over a pension solution. The Democrat governor, a one-time gadfly with Oak Park roots, was soon to cut off legislators’ pay checks to goad them to activity.
Harmon was optimistic. He protested “sky [is] falling” rhetoric about the pension problem and praised the legislature for having “cut government to the bone.”
“We can afford” pension payments, he said. “We never missed a payment, we never will.” Here and throughout, pensioners’ worries but not the state’s fiscal problems were at the forefront.
“It’s a budget issue,” he said, to further calm pensioners’ worries. Indeed, the budget just passed, a “pretty good” one, “pays the pension fully” for the coming year.
He joked at one point. Legislators “kind of solved the pension problem with the 2010 reform,” tightening benefits for new hires. “‘Tain’t funny, McGee,” Fibber’s wife Molly used to tell him on the radio. . . . .