Over the protests of state employee unions, an Illinois House committee today gave bipartisan support to a plan intended to repair Illinois’ underfunded pensions. That leaves the measure poised for a House vote, as the legislative session quickly comes to a close.
The legislation would leave workers paying more for a smaller retirement benefit – necessary changes, House Republican Leader Tom Cross says, given the state of Illinois’ pension systems.
CROSS: “We are the worst funded pension system in the country. Everybody in the state knows it. Everybody in the country knows it. And in fact I suspect most people around the world now know.”
Cross says this measure will fix that. He says the package will satisfy the credit ratings agencies casting a weary outlook on Illinois’ finances. He says it’ll ensure pension spending doesn’t crowd out funding for education and other needs. And, Cross says, it’ll provide teachers and state workers with the certainty they will get a pension when they retire.
But a coalition of unions say those workers did nothing to deserve getting their retirement benefits cut. Henry Bayer heads AFSCME, the state’s largest public employees union.
BAYER: “The governor – who’s supporting this bill, and the sponsor of the bill – they’re taking the Tea Party approach: let’s just cut, cut, cut, and let’s not pay this $30 billion that they owe.”
The unions have vowed to sue if the pension fix includes benefit cuts.
The Senate’s Democratic leadership also questions this plan’s constitutionality, and prefers a different one.
So even if the House passes its pension overhaul, it’s unclear if there’s the time or the will for the Senate to do the same.