Story Summary

Illinois Pension Reform

A pension deal worked out between Senate President John Cullerton and state employee unions was approved in committee, and now moves on to the full Senate.

A different pension proposal backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan recently passed the Illinois House of Representatives.

The state’s pension system is nearly $100 billion in debt.

Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 10 updates

Governor Quinn signed the pension reform bill into law at a private ceremony this afternoon.

“Illinois is moving forward,” Governor Quinn said in a statement. “This is a serious solution to address the most dire fiscal challenge of our time.”

State lawmakers passed the major overhaul to pension legislation in a history-making vote at the state capitol on Tuesday.

The worst-funded pension system in the nation, $100 billion dollars in the hole has been dragging down the state economy.

The new law, which takes effect June 1, will increase the retirement age for younger workers, scale back the annual cost-of-living increases for most retirees and establish a 401(k)-styled option for a limited number of workers. It would also skip some annual retiree increases, depending on when they retire.

The new law also requires workers to pay 1 percentage point less from their paychecks toward the retirement system. It includes protections for some of the longest-serving, lowest-paid workers who get the smallest retirement checks, allowing them to collect the current level of benefits until they hit certain levels.

Quinn says the bill will save the retirement system for government workers and help grow the economy. But the unions representing state workers have another word for: Robbery.

-Chicago Tribune contributed to this report

WGN Legal Analyst Paul Lisnek talks about the constitutionality of the pension reform bill that Illinois lawmakers recently passed.

State lawmakers passed major pension reform legislation in a history-making vote at the state capitol today.  One that’s almost certain to wind up in the Illinois Supreme Court.

It passed by the narrowest of margins.  The bill needed 30 votes in the Senate. It got exactly 30.

The State House voted minutes later. 60 votes were needed and pension reform got 62.

“I want to thank all those who had the political courage to vote yes today. It’s been a long journey. We’ve been working hard on this,” Gov Quinn said.

Quinn says the bill will save the retirement system for government workers and help grow the economy.

It’s a victory for the governor as he seeks re-election next year. The worst-funded pension system in the nation, $100 billion dollars in the hole has been dragging down the state economy. As political liabilities go, it would be about as big as they get.

But what the administration calls pension reform, the unions representing state workers have another word for: Robbery.

“This is like theft in the middle of the night, someone breaking into your house,” said Dan Montgomery of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.  These are protected benefits under the state constitution.”

At the end of the day, the bill that passed cuts cost of living increases for state workers, makes some retire later, and offers a 401(k)-like option.

The Governor says as soon as the bill hits his desk, he’ll sign it.

State worker unions say as soon

The Better Government Association’s Andy Shaw talked to WGN Morning News about Illinois lawmakers’ history-making vote on pension reform

Governor Quinn plans to sign pension reform legislation passed today by state lawmakers.

The bill is designed to wipe out a worst-in-the nation, $100 billion dollar pension debt.

Savings comes from reducing cost-of-living increases and raising the retirement age.

Employee unions plan to sue calling the breach of promises unconstitutional.

Gov Quinn released a statement saying, “Today, we have won. The people of Illinois have won. This bill will ensure retirement security for those who have faithfully contributed to the pension systems, end the squeeze on critical education and healthcare services, and support economic growth.

Capture“I applaud House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno for their leadership and good-faith negotiations. I thank Senator Kwame Raoul and members of the conference committee for their hard work over the past six months.

“I salute the members of the General Assembly who showed great political courage by voting yes for pension reform.”

Sen Kirk Dillard voted “no” on today’s vote.  He said, “I hesitate to free-up billions of additional dollars that they can use to further expand entitlement programs or subsidize more pet projects.”

Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said in a statement, “The will of the General Assembly is the adoption of current pension reform legislation,” said State Treasurer Dan Rutherford.  “Litigation is inevitable, and I hope that the courts issue an expedited ruling as to the constitutionality of the legislation. The sooner the better, so we can move our great state forward.”

Also opposing the ruling, Senator Toi Hutchinson released a statement saying, “As a lawmaker, I have the responsibility of proposing just and constitutionally sound legislation. I do not believe this proposed law fulfils this responsibility. If this issue were simply about saving money, a bill would have already been passed. But this legislation deals with people’s very livelihoods, the retirement benefits of thousands of hard-working Illinoisans, and I cannot support a law that fails to take this truth into account.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement saying, “Now state workers will have the certainty that pensions they paid into and are counting on will be there for them when they retire, and taxpayers can feel confident that they won`t have to shoulder the burden alone.”

Emanuel also says the works is not finished, and lawmakers need to bring relief to Chicago and other local governments.

Illinois lawmakers reach deal on pension reformIllinois lawmakers are set to vote on a major, pension reform bill on Tuesday that comes with a big financial and political pricetag.

The state has the worst pension system in the country, and is $100 billion in debt.

The proposal would raise the retirement age for many state workers, scale back automatic, annual cost-of-living increases, and offer a 401(k)-style option.

Legislators from both parties are scrambling to line up support for the measure. Labor groups are firmly opposed to the bill.

“We can do better, and today we have that opportunity,” said Sen. Christine Radogno, the Republican Minority Leader.

“… the Illinois pension systems are just too rich to be afforded as the state goes forward,” said Rep. Michael Madigan, the Democratic Speaker of the House.

WGN News Writer C. Hayes published this story.

Illinois lawmakers may vote today on a bill aimed at erasing the state’s massive public pension debt; but even if there are enough votes for passage, the bill faces an almost certain court fight.

It would raise the retirement age for workers currently under age 45, and reduce guaranteed annual increases in monthly pension checks.

Unlike previous bills, this one has support from both Democrats and Republicans; but of the four Republican candidates for Governor, only Bill Brady supports the pension bill.

Labor unions say the bill could cut a typical state retiree’s pension benefits by almost one-third; and they’re prepared to sue, to protect their benefits.

Chicago Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson talks about Illinois lawmakers possibly voting on a bill today that erases the state’s massive public pension debt.

It is the eve of what may be the most important vote lawmakers will ever cast on a controversial plan to repair the most dysfunctional pension system in the nation.

The state’s credit rating’s is at stake and maybe some political futures as well.

The plan to solve the state’s $100 billion dollar pension problem passed a bipartisan committee and tomorrow it moves to the house and senate for debate and a vote.

Pension plan moves forward in SpringfieldThe sense in Springfield is that if pension reform doesn’t get done now, it will take years and billions more of your dollars to fix.

All the same, tomorrow’s vote is expected to be extremely close.

WGN’s Tom Negovan is in Springfield and spoke with lawmakers about the plan and the crucial vote.

State lawmakers could vote Tuesday on a pension reform plan that was reached amongst legislative leaders last week.

The overhaul would raise retirement ages for many public workers and teachers outside of Chicago.

It would also reduce cost-of-living increases for retirees and eliminate the $100 billion pension debt in 30 years.

Gov. Pat Quinn and fellow Democrats, who control the General Assembly, support the plan.

Republicans favor reforming the retirement system, but analysts say they are cautious of handing Democrats a victory ahead of a key election year.

Advertisement