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6:33 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Illinois House Votes to Eliminate Perk for Retirees

Longtime state employees in Illinois would no longer be able get free health insurance  when they retire under legislation (SB 1313) approved by the Illinois House on May 9.

The  vote is part of a push to cut pension benefits for government retirees.  The governor, House speaker and other politicians want to save money  by cutting pensions, health care and other costs.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross said it's the first of many difficult  votes to come.

“It's time for us to do the uncomfortable tasks, have the uncomfortable  conversations, and be honest with retirees. Tell them: You know what?  We can't afford to give it to you free,” Cross said.

Right  now, people who spend 20 years working for the state don't have  to pay health insurance premiums in retirement.

The  measure to end that benefit passed 74-to-43 and now goes to the  Senate.

Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn earning praise from an unlikely source: the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

“The Illinois Chamber is  stepping up to support the Governor's blueprint for pension reforms,” said Chamber President Doug Whitley.

“We  think the Governor's made a bold statement that is necessary because the public employee pensions are on the verge of insolvency. We know that the rising cost of public employee pensions is now 15% of the  budget.”

As he gains support from business  groups, Quinn has been criticized by a  group that once supported him: labor unions. They said workers have a right to keep the retirement plans they were promised.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio