Illinois Lawmakers Approve Pension Reform

Springfield, IL – Illinois lawmakers have approved lower retirement benefits for most future public employees. The plan sailed through the House and Senate Wednesday over the objections of unions representing downstate teachers, state government workers and others.

AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer says the mounting pension debt the state owes is due to political leaders underfunding the system for years .

"None of our members who retired are living on easy street," says Bayer. "There are some who are able to live out their retirement with some modicum of decency, allowed to live out their retirement with some degree of comfort. But no one's getting rich."

But both Republicans and Democrats say the state has to get its arms around the problem. Current employees and retirees won't be affected by the changes. Neither will police or firefighters. But those hired for most jobs starting next year will be under different rules. They will have limits on how much they can receive in retirement and be required to work longer, until age 67, to get full benefits.

Illinois Budget Director David Vaught says pension obligations are making it harder to pay for other needs

"Now we're under great pressure because of this very large problem in the pensions that squeezes out everything else," says Vaught.

Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign the pension measure into law.
The changes are estimated to save $100 billion over the next few decades. But many speculate state leaders will use that savings to justify putting less money into the pension funds next year.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio for providing this report.