Constitutional Amendment Targets ‘Pension Sweeteners’

It would be harder for the Illinois legislature to increase state employee pensions under a measure that won House committee approval Tuesday. As Brian Mackey reports, House Speaker Michael Madigan is sponsoring the proposal himself.

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The pension funds for state employees, teachers and university officials are billions of dollars short of where they need to be.

Because of that, Madigan wants to change the state Constitution to increase the number of votes required to pass what are commonly referred to as “pension sweeteners.”

Madigan, who has been Speaker of the House for most of the last three decades, says legislators and governors have been too quick to approve generous pension benefits.

MADIGAN: “You will hear some people in the Capitol building say, ‘This is real tough medicine.’ Well it is.”

BAYER: “Unfortunately, it’s the wrong medicine for the disease.”

Henry Bayer is president of the largest labor union representing state employees. He says the problem is NOT overly generous benefits.

BAYER: “The problem is one of the failure to properly fund those pensions.”

While state employees have retirement contributions deducted from every paycheck, the state has in the past skipped out on billions in employer contributions … using the money to pay for other programs instead.

— Brian Mackey

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