After years of dithering, Illinois senators and representatives took a step forward Tuesday in solving the $100 million pension problem that has bedeviled the state, its finances and its credit rating. The state Senate passed the measure 30-24, and the House passed it 62-53—all in one afternoon.
The deal will save $160 billion over 30 years, and reduce the state's payments for pensions by about $1.5 billion a year, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
It does so by curtailing cost-of-living increases for pensioners, who include suburban teachers and retired state workers. It also raises retirement ages for younger workers.
For that reason, several sources said, labor unions may mount a legal challenge to it.
Illinois' pension crisis is considered the worst in the nation, reports chicago.cbslocal.com, because for years lawmakers diverted money elsewhere and did not make full payments into the funds.
How local representatives voted:
- Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Elmhurst): Yes
- Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Westmont): Yes
- Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst): Yes
- Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn): No
- Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale): No
- Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park): No
Lawmakers were shown the legislation the day before the vote, Dillard said, giving a majority of policymakers limited time to review the more than 300-page bill.
“Considering the limited time most legislators had to analyze this legislation, it was impossible to thoroughly evaluate and understand the measure,” Dillard said. “This legislation will not only affect hundreds of thousands of retired teachers and state employees, but its impact will span generations. I understand that pension reform is absolutely necessary if Illinois is going to dig itself out of its fiscal hole, but rushing this process is not in the best interest of the retirees we’re ultimately trying to protect.”
The senator also expressed concerns about how the reported $160 billion in savings achieved through the measure would be spent.
“Neither the House speaker, Senate president, nor the governor have demonstrated the budgetary discipline needed to reduce the state’s multibillion-dollar bill backlog or limit spending in order to allow the tax increase to expire as they promised,” Dillard said. “Knowing this, without assurance that the savings will be used prudently, I hesitate to free-up billions of additional dollars that they can use to further expand entitlement programs or subsidize more pet projects at the expense of our retired teachers, state workers and law enforcement officers.”See how other Representatives voted here.
Click here for the Senate roll call.