WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Pension Plan Advancing in Illinois

May 1, 2013

The Illinois House is poised to vote Thursday, May 2, on an overhaul of the state's pension systems.  It would reduce state workers', teachers', and university employees' future retirement benefits.

The plan easily advanced out of a House committee Wednesday, and there is a feeling in the capitol that after countless attempts to reduce the state's pension debt, this might be the plan that does the trick.

Insiders say it's significant that the plan is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who rarely takes action without having support locked up. 

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

It also leaves out controversial aspects of prior plans, such as requiring school districts to begin paying teachers' retirement costs. Madigan said he'll push for that in a separate proposal this spring.

This measure is designed to cut the state's pension costs by requiring employees to work more years and receive a lesser retirement benefit.  Even so, Madigan said Illinois should not count on the expected savings as lawmakers prepare a new state budget.

“Because we expect a court challenge, the unions were so kind as to tell today that they're going to challenge it,” Madigan said. 

Union leaders said the plan unfairly cuts some workers' future pension benefits by one-third.

There is also the question of how this proposal will fare in the Senate. President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) has backed a different approach. But Madigan says he's moving ahead with Cullerton's "direction and consent."