Illinois Senate President John Cullerton Talks Pensions

CullertonLawmakers, unions and policy groups have proposed various solutions to Illinois’ pension problem.  The pension systems are nearly 100 billion dollars underfunded.   A key obstacle to any cost savings plan is Illinois’ Constitution, which protects retirement benefits workers have already earned.  Senate President John Cullerton has remained steadfast that it may be constitutional to reduce employees’ pensions if workers opt to change them.  He’s called for giving workers the choice of keeping their current pensions, but losing access to state-subsidized healthcare upon retirement.
Or he says they could choose to keep the health coverage, while agreeing to a smaller pension.
Cullerton’s latest plan includes that option only if the courts would rule against a pension overhaul that reduces workers’ benefits, requires they work longer, and has employees paying more toward retirement.  
You’ll hear him refer to this idea as Senate Bill One… as it was the first measure filed in the new legislative session.
WUIS’ Amanda Vinicky asked Cullerton if his two-pronged approach sends a confusing and mixed message to the courts.
Hear mp3



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6 Responses to Illinois Senate President John Cullerton Talks Pensions

  1. Joe says:

    Keep you healtcare and I’ll keep my pension. I will just show up in the ER like the deadbeats do and wihen the bills get to high I’ll file bankrupcy.

  2. How can state workers/retirees possibly be stupid enough to give up a constitutionally-guaranteed benefit (their pension COLA, which they paid for with a dedicated contribution from their paychecks) for a non-guaranteed, unprotected “promise” to receive health care in the future? Even if I give up the COLA, what is to prevent the State from reneging on this promise in the future, just like it is now trying to renege on its pension contracts? Anyone who forfeits their COLA, in all likelyhood, will get no COLA and no health care; either that, or the cost of the health care will be greater than the benefit is worth.

  3. les says:

    Yep, I’ll be choosing….nothing. In other words, sticking with exactly what was promised me 22 years ago, exactly what I currently have, exactly what the courts will tell the State they have to do (you have to honor your contracts), exactly what my Constitution guarantees. Quit trying to use my back for your eternal mismanagement OR lead by example and start with your own pension system (GARS) first.

  4. Earl Shumaker says:

    Andrew, makes some excellent points.
    Senator Cullerton and other State political leaders are the reason the State of Illinois finds itself with a pension “problem.”
    Over these decades, elected officials, both past and current from both political parties have used the pension funds as their “own” credit card. They have ignored the pension laws they created—pension laws mandating that the State and the employees contribute on a consistent basis money into the pensions. A certain percentage of these contributions were specifically designated for the COLA.
    Starting with Governor Thompson on up to Governor Blagojevich, the State on several occassions stopped contributing to the pensions. But the employees in the meantime consistently paid into the funds, including into their COLAs. This meant that the employees contributions over these last 40+ years were being invested, and earning compounded interest. But because of the politicians, including Cullerton failing to abide with the pension law mandating State contributions, the pensions are now facing a crisis . If the State politicians had abided with the pension law, the pensions today would be solvent-today–this in spite of the recession created by Wall Street. I might add also, that State of Illinois decided years ago not to be participate in the Social Security Program. This was done in order for the State to avoid paying into Social Security. Consequently, the State saved billions of dollars by declining Social Security for its employees.

    So now, as Andrew points out Cullerton is asking that in order for state employees to continue receiving some scaled down health insurance (insurance, which was legislatively promised to pensioners) pensioners must give up their Illinois Constitutionally protected Cost-of-Living(COLA) Since the State of Illinois elected officials have no credibility, why does Senator Cullerton think pensioners can “trust” any politician when it comes to decisons that will impact their daily lives.

    I wish Ms. Vinicky had asked Senator Cullerton if he and others had even considered the economic, and social impact would have on elderly pensioners if they have to choose between a State sponsored scaled down health insurance plan or a COLA One of the biggest expenses for pensioners is the cost of medical care. But , the cost of living also keeps rising (eg., gasoline has gone up 40 cents during the last week alone, food keeps rising) So Cullerton is apaprently demanding that pensioners make a decision between having their medicines or food on the table

    In conclusion, the reason the Illinois pensions are in a crisis is because Cullerton and other politicians over these years have robbed from the pensions and used the money for other programs and/or for their pork barrel gimmicks Now, Cullerton and others wants to balance the budget on the back of the State pensioners–a group who have devoted their careers to the citizens of Illinois and have check to pay check contributed their share to the pensions and COLAs. Cullerton wants to do this by making the pensioners give up their constitutionally protected cost of living benefits (COLA) for health insurance that legislatively was promised to them. I am sure that Cullerton, Cross, Madigan, and other State legislative leaders feel that they can go ahead and use the pensioners as collateral damage because they themselves will be insulated from any damage they do to them If Cullerton and others should say, “but, look at us, we, too are sacrificing, also” my response would be, “Senator, whatever “sacrifices” you and other political leaders make, I am sure those “sacrifices” will be “chump change” compared to the “bread and butter” decisons pensioners have to make.”

  5. David Specht says:

    What a noncompassionate hypocritical man – throwing old people under the bus. He was around when pension holidays were taken and now chooses to blame the old people for the fiscal condition of the state. I paid for my COLA (1/2 percent every paycheck) and my health insurance (1 percent every paycheck and as a retiree I pay a premium for my insurance) – for 34 years. If I paid and earned both already why would I choose one of the two? I am sticking with what I have. I will not choose between one or the other. Politicians are to blame for the $2 billion of interest payments the state must make every year – all due to not funding the pensions. If they had kept up their end and tempered their spending, like we were forced to do there would be no unfunded liability. Rather than search for constitutional, sensible ideas they would rather steal the food and medical care of old people, effectively destroying thousands of lifes. They are not to be trusted. Just wait until the next election.

  6. Jim Lockard says:

    As I recall, our legislators swear to uphold the law, the state constitution, when they assume office. How is it now the norm that Cullerton, Madigan, and so many others can boldly propose bills like SB1 that so clearly violate the non-diminishment clause of the constitution? For those who dislike these provisions of the IL constitution, there is always the federal law on contracts, which this bill also violates. How about meeting with the affected groups (unlike Madigan’s unhelpful refusal to meet with We Are One) to discuss solutions that would be reasonable, rational, and above all, legal? Wouldn’t that be better than assuring a protracted legal battle, during which the state will incur large legal expenses in addition to not saving all the money Cullerton claims his deficient bill will?

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