Senate Dems Denounce Pension Cost Shift As Budget Deadline Approaches

May 11, 2018

Sen. Scott Bennett (D, Champaign) on the Senate floor in April. Bennett was one of several state senators to decry the proposed pension cost shift at Wednesday's Senate Appropriations committee.
Credit IL SENATE DEMOCRATS / TWITTER

Budget talks at the Illinois Statehouse have shown no real sign of progress. This week, Senate Democrats pressed Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration to explain its proposal to shift pension costs to local school districts.

The governor’s budget director, Hans Zigmund, defended the idea at a Senate committee, saying Illinois would face a deficit worth billions absent this or other cost-saving measures.

If the shift is approved, school districts around the state would pay an additional 25 percent of their pension costs in the next year alone.

State Senator Scott Bennett, a Champaign Democrat, asked Zigmund how he thinks school districts would raise the money to cover the cost.

“Would you at least acknowledge that it’s likely that most districts would see a property tax increase as a way to pay those increased costs?," he inquired, to which Zigmund responded: "No."

Zigmund says the administration is willing to bend on the terms of that cost shift, but Democrats say it’s giving the governor’s office a reason to slow-walk the budget process. Several other state senators spoke against the idea, calling it “impossible.”

While state budgeteers continue to negotiate the cost shift and other budget ideas behind closed doors, lawmakers have until May 31 to vote on a final agreement.