The Illinois Senate has moved forward with a pair of measures (SB 1 and SB 35) that would strip government workers of some of their pension benefits. The changes would impact state and university employees, as well as downstate and suburban public school teachers.
Union leaders met with Governor Pat Quinn and members of the legislature on February 11 to talk about the state's underfunded pension system. They billed it as a chance to work together on a divisive issue but the two sides remain far apart.
The unions represent a range of government workers, from prison guards to teachers. After the meeting, they issued a statement saying it shows they can "work together constructively with all parties."
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.
Illinois’ pension-reform issue seemed to make some progress this month, but labor and legislators still question the latest, bipartisan proposal addressing the state’s $95 billion pension problem, and as of press time the state’s We Are One coalition still plans a rally at the Illinois Statehouse on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 3-4.
Eighteen lawmakers appeared with HB 6258 Democratic co-sponsors Elaine Nekritz of Des Plaines and Daniel Biss of Skokie at the measure’s introduction Dec. 5.
State employee unions say the leading proposals to fix Illinois' public employee pension systems are all fatally flawed, so they proposed their own plan.
Workers point out any attempt to plug the $96 billion funding shortfall must respect the state Constitution, which says benefits "shall not be diminished."
The proposals backed by Governor Pat Quinn and other political leaders attempt to get around that in order to cut retirement benefits. But AFSCME Legislative Director Joanna Webb-Gauvin said those ideas will ultimately fail in the courts.
Illinois lawmakers began November with an election that solidified Democratic majorities and they will finish the month by returning to the Capitol.
Their annual fall meetings are called veto sessions because lawmakers are supposed to consider legislation the governor rejected or changed. Those could include statewide regulation of plastic bags and a plan to let cancer treatment centers reject job applicants who smoke.