Illinois lawmakers approved cuts to state employee pensions Tuesday. The move comes after years of stalemate over how to address the worst-funded pension plans of any state.
In northern Illinois, "yes" votes in the House included Democrat Linda Chapa LaVia of Aurora and Republican Tom Demmer of Dixon. Voting against the plan were Republicans John Cabello of Machesney Park, former House minority leader Tom Cross, Michael Fortner of West Chicago, Bob Pritchard of Hinckley, Joe Sosnowski of Rockford, and Brian Stewart of Freeport. Democrats Jack Franks of Marengo and Chuck Jefferson of Rockford joined them in the "no" column.
On the Senate side, Republican Tim Bivins of Dixon voted no. Republicans Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove and Dave Syverson of Rockford joined Democrat Steve Stadelman of Rockford in approving the reform plan.
Governor Quinn says he'll sign soon
Governor Pat Quinn says pension reform has been his top priority, and applauded lawmakers who voted yes. He issued the following statement:
“Since I took the oath of office, I’ve pushed relentlessly for a comprehensive pension reform solution that would erase a $100 billion liability and restore fiscal stability to Illinois. Today, we have won. The people of Illinois have won.
“This landmark legislation is a bipartisan solution that squarely addresses the most difficult fiscal issue Illinois has ever confronted. This bill will ensure retirement security for those who have faithfully contributed to the pension systems, end the squeeze on critical education and healthcare services, and support economic growth.”
Reaction from lawmakers
"The message is this is not a one-sided bill. There will be changes here, much-needed changes, but this bill is a well thought out, well balanced bill that deserves the support of this body, the state Senate and the approval of Governor Quinn.'' -- House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“This bill protects those who have worked the longest and receive modest pensions. Everyone is asked to sacrifice, and that is unfortunate, but this bill does it in a just and compassionate way. It's unfortunate that those who created the problem in the 90’s can't be held accountable. It's not a teacher's fault, or a state employee's fault, or even the fault of legislators like me who voted against every budget that didn't fully fund the pension systems.” -- State Senator Dave Syverson of Rockford.
"We can't continue to be cemented into a stalemate. We cannot continue to be the embarrassment of the nation.'' -- State Senator Kwame Raoul of Chicago
"If this legislation is found unconstitutional, we're out on a perch.'' -- State Senator Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.
Reaction from business and local governments
"This is no victory for Illinois, but a dark day for its citizens and public servants.'' -- We Are One Illinois coalition of unions representing public employees and retirees.
"The pension crisis is not truly solved until relief is brought to Chicago and all of the other local governments across our state that are standing on the brink of a fiscal cliff because of our pension liabilities.'' -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
"This bill isn't perfect and it wasn't without compromise, but it was undoubtedly the right thing to do for the state and its citizens.'' -- Ty Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.
"Manufacturers and businesses across the state needed a sign from Springfield that they are serious about turning the economic ship around in Illinois. This is a step in the right direction.'' -- Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association
Reaction from University Leaders
"We continue to have concerns this legislation will have an adverse effect on our faculty, staff and annuitants and place NIU and Illinois' public universities at a disadvantage in recruiting faculty and staff. However, the General Assembly has spoken; now we anticipate this legislation will quickly move to the courts where its merits will ultimately be decided." --NIU President Doug Baker
"NIU has been a willing and engaged participant in the pension reform discussions for almost three years and believes the principles outlined in the Six Simple Steps proposal would have accomplished the overall objectives regarding savings to the state while being more equitable to our faculty and staff, many of whom will not receive Social Security." --NIU VP of Administration Steven Cunningham