Revised pension plan moves to House floor

May 31, 2012

A revised plan  to overhaul state pensions has cleared its first hurdle and is headed to the Illinois House.

Just yesterday, partisan differences had threatened to kill prospects for a pension overhaul when Republicans refused to go along with House Speaker Michael Madigan's plan to cut pension costs. Madigan transferred sponsor ship to House Republican Leader Tom Cross.

Madigan's proposal would have forced school districts and universities to pay for their employees' retirement benefits ... a cost now picked up by the state. That's out of  the Republican plan, which won a House committee's approval this morning.

The legislation requires state workers, university employees and teachers to choose between two options:

  • Keep their current pension and give up access to health care upon retirement. 
  • Take a reduced pension. 

But even as the proposal moves to the full House, it's unclear if the pension overhaul will pass before the regular session adjourns tonight at midnight.

The governor's office says the state could save up to $88 billion over the next 30 years under Cross's plan -- enough, Pat Quinn's administration says, to appease bond agencies that have been threatening to downgrade the state's credit rating unless Illinois fixes its pensions funding problem.

Madigan says he discussed the matter with Governor Pat Quinn.

"I was surprised that the governor disagreed with me on the issue," Madigan said.  "... He agrees with Republicans."

Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Belvidere, says he's not sure how Madigan's decision will affect the bill.

"I'm not sure what that means, if he's no longer going to be supportive of the bill, and whether or not the Democratic party will support it in block," Sosnowski said, "or if he'll give freedom to members to vote how they'd like."

The focus of the final bill will be to reduce cost-of-living adjustments for retirees. Sosnowski says additional pension reforms will be needed down the road.  But he says adopting the current plan would be a step in the right direction.