WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Illinois Pension Reform Now the Law

Dec 5, 2013

It took just a little more than a week for a pension overhaul in Illinois to go from an agreement between legislative leaders to law.

The agreement was announced the day before Thanksgiving. The following Tuesday, lawmakers voted for the plan, and Governor Pat Quinn signed it into law on Thursday.

Governor Pat Quinn

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) was key to its passage.  During the Senate debate, he called it a reasonable compromise.

“This step is crucial, it is necessary. I don't come to it easily.  I think none of (us) came to it easily,” Biss said.  “But it is an absolutely essential part of the process to restoring the state's fiscal integrity.”

The new law takes away state workers' yearly three-percent, compounded pension raises. It replaces them with a lesser retirement benefit that is tied to years of service and the consumer price index.

It also raises the retirement age for younger workers.

Unions contend that breaks a constitutional guarantee that says retirement benefits cannot be diminished. They plan to file a lawsuit. 

A coalition of unions says attorneys are preparing a case, but the group does not know when or where it will be filed.