Annual Report 2018 From President Brenda Russell

The UIC chapter of SUAA has the mission to protect the pensions and benefits of employees and retirees who are served by SURS.  This is a challenge given the ongoing State budget crises, and with the media and politicians continuing to blame the State pensions unfairly.  Everyone needs to educate friends and family about this FACT: 95% of the pension budget is wasted on debt service because the State never paid its part over the years.  The remaining 5% is allocated towards our pension and health insurance for which we paid in 8% of every paycheck to earn these benefits.  Illinois’ fiscal despair is not our fault, and it can’t be fixed by cutting our pension payments.  The only remedy is to rethink revenue and debt repayment planning.  Note: The IL Supreme Court has ruled that the 5% going to our pensions cannot be diminished, but do the math.  Even without that Constitutional protection, there would still be 95% of debt left to fund.

Our chapter membership dropped slightly in the past year but we still have a significant number of members, about 1500.  We are making an effort to recruit more UIC employees, especially those nearing retirement.  SUAA is a great resource as people navigate through their own choices for retirement, and we work with our statewide partners to protect against potentially negative legislation.  After this business meeting today, we will hear from Richard Lockhart, our SUAA lobbyist for many years, who will provide some insights based on his extensive knowledge of Illinois politics.

There are about 16,000 SUAA members living in most senate and representative legislative districts statewide, where they are able to exert influence on our behalf.  SUAA continues to be a network for advocacy on how to approach legislators effectively.  The link for finding your legislators is

Major Events in the Past Year
We know that timely communications or facts and reliable analysis are essential to you.  We continue to send out two major newsletters a year and monthly briefings.  We post on our website, Facebook, and use the email lists to keep you informed about SUAA and better connected to the UIC community.

We held the Fall Forum on Oct. 20; it was entitled “Our Pensions and the Budget: the Fight is not Over”, with presentations by Profs. David Merriman (UIC) and J. Fred Giertz (UIUC) and moderated by Rachel Weber, (UIC).  “To resolve the fundamental imbalance between revenues and spending, Illinois is likely to have to pursue austere spending policies and accept additional tax increases for a number of years,” said Merriman.  Video of the program can be viewed here.

SUAA Board of Director Meetings
Statewide meetings of SUAA delegates are held in June in Springfield and, in the fall, in Normal.  Of note at last fall’s meeting (Oct. 24), the Legislative Committee had a proposal to support a state tax on retirement income with three conditions to soften the impact: all 1099R pensions should be treated the same, $50,000 of retirement income would be exempt from state tax, and the State must pay its mandated contribution into its retirement systems.  This proposal was defeated.  The Legislative platform that was adopted can be seen here.

US Tax Reform Starting January 2018
Many items that affect education in k-12, such as deduction for private school tuition, are new.  But graduate tuition waivers will not be taxed.

Holiday Luncheon, Dec. 11
As usual, we had a lively crowd at the Greek Islands restaurant for our Winter Holiday lunch in December 2017.

Spring Brown Bag; “Crush your retirement”
We had been hearing concerns from current employees about future uncertainties so we planned an informal Brown Bag lunch, expecting about a dozen people.  However, this is obviously a very hot topic because over 120 came to learn about optimal navigation through the pre-retire processes and how to plan to enjoy the years beyond.  Two recent retirees shared their valuable experiences; Jerry Bauman, Dean Emeritus of the College of Pharmacy, and Sonya Booth, former Director of Campus Communications.  SURS retirement specialist Lee Bridges added pertinent information to the session.  Our thanks go to Marelet Kirda and her APAC colleagues for helping to organize and advertise this event.  Those close to retirement were reassured for now.

HR Events on East and West sides in April 2018
Every year the UIC Human Resources office holds a pre-retirement planning event.  Due to increasing demands, the Office has expanded this to two events of 200 participants each on the East and the West side of campus.  HR and SURS make presentations, as well as our UIC SUAA team.  People are very interested in learning about their options for retirement.  This is also a good opportunity to recruit new members to our chapter.

Current Events
The annual spring chapter meeting was held at UIC on April 16, 2018.  A business meeting, including the election of officers, was followed by a presentation by Richard Lockhart, former SUAA lobbyist.  Linda Brookhart, SUAA Executive Director, also participated.  The video link is here.

November Midterm and Gubernatorial Election
Our 2nd vice president, Bill Peterman, is now statewide SUAA Legislative co-chair as well as representing our UIC chapter.  As he follows developments in Springfield, we will keep you informed of any concerns relevant to your pensions and benefits.

Special THANKS
Merrill Gassman
and Sonya Booth provide accurate and prompt communications to you through multiple channels.  Sonya is our Newsletter editor and sends monthly electronic briefings that include news from UIC while  Merrill updates and maintains our website and YouTube video channel.  Merrill and Sonya together maintain and post on our website, Facebook, and the email lists to keep you informed about SUAA developments and better connected to our UIC community.

Thanks to Karen Sherman and Deb Matthews for making the arrangements and handling lunch reservations for all of our events throughout the year.

Special thanks to Jim Limber for videotaping our events for a decade.  Jim always says that maybe “this is the last time,” but that might be true for the spring meeting.  He has a succession plan, and he has prepared a kit to donate to UIC SUAA which contains the equipment needed to record meetings.  Sonya has accepted the video kit and will either learn how to use it or find someone who can.  Volunteers are welcome!

Marsha Borders
Marsha joined our board as a Director-at-Large on 15 Dec. 2004.  She has been a 1st VP and Membership director since then and has served one term as an elected At-Large member of the SUAA Executive Committee.  She has served on the chapter Nominating committee several times and has been a delegate to the SUAA Board of Directors meetings many times.  Her former UIC position was in the College of Dentistry administration office.  We will miss her tireless, dedicated, and efficient service to SUAA.

We are now seeking a director as well as members for the Membership committee.  Please contact any member of the Board if you are interested.