Over the protests of state employee unions, an Illinois House committee gave bipartisan support to a plan intended to repair Illinois' underfunded pensions. But the full House adjourned Monday without taking a vote.
The legislation would leave workers paying more for a smaller retirement benefit. House Republican leader Tom Cross said the change is necessary given the condition of Illinois' pension systems.
“We are the worst funded pension system in the country. Everybody in the state knows it. Everybody in the country knows it and, in fact, I suspect most people around the world now know,” Cross said.
He said this measure will fix that.
Cross said the package will satisfy the credit ratings agencies that are casting a negative outlook for Illinois' finances. He said it will also ensure pension spending doesn't crowd out funding for education and other needs. In addition, Cross said it will provide teachers and state workers with the certainty they will receive a pension when they retire.
But a coalition of unions says those workers did nothing to deserve getting their retirement benefits cut.
“The governor - who's supporting this bill - and the sponsor of the bill are taking the Tea Party approach: let's just cut, cut, cut, and let's not pay this $30 billion that they owe,” said Henry Bayer, who leads AFSCME, which is the state's largest public employees union.
The unions have vowed to sue if the pension fix includes benefit cuts.
The Senate's Democratic leadership also questioned the plan's constitutionality, and preferred a different one, which means the plan might not have enough support to win approval before the new General Assembly is sworn in Wednesday.
Thanks to Illinois Public Radio