WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Group Says Pension Fund Doesn't Need Massive Reform

Apr 2, 2012

A public policy group at the University of Illinois says the State University Retirement System (SURS) needs to be stabilized but not reformed.

The Institute for Government and Public Affairs proposal includes contributions from universities to the fund for the first time. The plan calls for universities to phase-in their contributions until they reach 3% in the third year.

IGPA spokesman Northern Illinois University Vice President of Administration and Human Resources Steve Cunningham says the plan offers an alternative to a harsher measure in the state legislature.

He said, “It's very much an effort to look at alternatives that are reasonable to stabilize the situation realizing that some adjustment to state obligations may be necessary to facilitate a viable funding plan for the unfunded liabilities.”

Cunningham says the state can't shift the burden entirely to schools.

He said, “Universities are ill-prepared to pick up the normal costs themselves. It would have too large an effect on operating budgets and tuition.”

Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas says the school wants to be a “good partner.”

However, he said, “It would be a hardship to the institution because it's an additional cost and we're not sure where we would get those funds.”

Thomas said the state is $32 million behind in its payments to WIU for the current fiscal year.

The IGPA proposal would also increase the employee contribution from the current 8% to 11% over a three-year period.

Cunningham says the plan would save the state $265 million a year.