3 months ago From Chicago Tribune
Gov. Quinn says he'll sign it into law
From From Chicago Tribune:
The Illinois General Assembly today narrowly approved a major overhaul of the state government worker pension system following hours of debate on the controversial plan strongly opposed by employee unions.
The House voted 62-53 to approve a measure that aims to wipe out a worst-in-the-nation $100 billion pension debt by reducing and skipping cost-of-living increases, requiring workers to retire later and creating a 401(k) option for a limited number of employees. The measure needed a minimum of 60 votes to pass the House.
Moments earlier, the Senate voted for the measure 30-24. The bill needed at least 30 votes. The measure now goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he'll sign it.
Locally, State Rep. Jil Tracy voted yes. She served on the Pension Conference Committee that crafted the bill.
State Rep. Norinne Hammond and State Sens. John Sullivan and Sam McCann voted no. Tracy's gubernatorial running mate State Sen. Kirk Dillard also voted no.
Sullivan said he believes there is a fairer way to do pension reform, citing a bill that passed the Senate earlier this year that saved $50 billion. He said he believed that bill was constitutional but the current bill is not.
"This proposal has a drastic and negative impact on both current and retired employees, and-I believe-it has serious constitutional issues," Sullivan said. "I understand the enormous need for pension reform, but this isn't it."
He said he believed the issue would be back in front of the Legislature soon.
"Retirees have planned and saved based on promises from the state. It has to be our job to find equitable solutions without breaking those promises," Sullivan said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we are back here in a year or two voting on a new plan after the courts find this one unconstitutional."
Sponsoring Sen. Kwame Raoul urged colleagues to vote in favor. "We cannot continue to be the embarrassment of the nation," said Raoul, D-Chicago.
Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, questioned the promised savings. "I would be much more inclined to support this bill if this bucket didn't have so many holes in it," he said.
Democratic Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora dismissed House Speaker Michael Madigan’s assertion earlier in the day that pension benefits are “too rich.”
“I believe this was actually more caused by the fact that we as a state did not make our pension payments as we should have even though the employees worked and their full payments were made,” said Holmes, the only member of the special two-chamber special committee that did not sign the legislation that emerged. “So I think a lot of this problem stems from the fact that we actually didn’t do what we were obligated and should have done.”
Despite the opposition, the Senate approved the bill.
In the House, a vote was expected to soon follow. Madigan presented the measure and found himself in the rare position of answering question after question from numerous rank-and-file lawmakers. The key, the long-serving speaker said, is to fix a retirement system for government workers that is broken.
“Something’s got to be done. Something’s got to be done,” said Madigan, D-Chicago.