Pension reform
2:30 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Senate bows out of pension reform discussion

Both chambers consider limiting reform to lawmakesrs only No pension legislation will move through the General Assembly today. Legislators convened in Springfield for a special session on pensions, but the Senate has already adjourned without taking up any measures. Their website says the next session will be Nov. 27. The Illinois House was still in session at 5 p.m.

Some House Democrats are pushing a plan to cut pension benefits for state elected officials and no one else. Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville says the measure is disingenuous. "I am not going to vote for this, I think it's a farce," she said. "I think we're basically coming out and saying we're doing something and we're absolutely not, and it's a real disservice for those who live in this state." Negotiations to include state employees, teachers, university workers and judges in a pension overhaul failed to produce an agreement. The measure would give current legislators a choice of smaller growth in their pension checks or losing their free health insurance. Future lawmakers would not get any state retirement benefits at all. It's currently being debated in the Illinois House. 

The Senate this afternoon had been considering a measure that would reduce retirement benefits only for state elected officials. The measure brought before a House pension committee would completely eliminate pensions for future legislators. 

House Pension Committee chair Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-DesPlaines, said that proposals involving others, such as state employees and teachers, do not have enough votes to pass. Nekritz says lawmakers cutting their own pensions would at least show the General Assembly is serious. 

The Illinois House could vote on the proposal later today. The measure would give current legislators a choice of smaller growth in their pension checks or losing their free health insurance. Future lawmakers would not get any state retirement benefits at all. 

Despite Gov. Pat Quinn's call for more comprehensive changes, no breakthrough was reached on pensions for state employees, downstate teachers, university workers and judges.  

Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, says he thinks the effort to scale back what legislators get is fair:

"My reaction to that is, you know, that is appropriate that we do lead by example and all areas in not just pensions," he said.

Illinois' pension systems are considered the worst funded in the nation. Quinn says retirement costs are eating up more of the state's budget and crowding out other needs. 

But public employee unions are furious at attempts to change their benefits. They blame state leaders for failing to contribute enough to the pension systems over the past few decades.

The legislation before lawmakers today would do little to address the state's budget problems. The other pension systems are much larger and more costly.