Pension package hits snag after clearing committee
BY DAVE McKINNEY Springfield bureau chief January 7, 2013 2:00PM
Updated: January 7, 2013 9:01PM
SPRINGFIELD-A House-drafted plan to solve the state's $95 billion pension crisis moved forward Monday, advancing out of House panel amid a unified outcry from government employee labor unions.
The House Personnel and Pensions Committee approved a bi-partisan backed pension package by a 6-3 vote. That outcome positioned the legislation for a full House vote, though its timing remained a fluid question.
"To me, the choice is clear. The time is now to end the excuses and say yes to reform for our pension systems and to long overdue relief for our great state," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), the bill's lead House sponsor.
Under the House legislation, known as Senate Bill 1673, cost-of-living increases would be frozen for six years and disallowed for retirees until they reach 67.
Those retirement pension increases would be based on only the first $25,000 of a retiree's pension; pensions would be capped at the Social Security wage base or an employee's current salary, whichever is higher; employee pension contributions would jump by 1 percent of their wages for two years.
The House plan, which would fully fund the pension systems in 30 years, would apply to four of the state's five pension systems and, most significantly, would not give existing workers or retirees a choice of accepting reduced pension benefits.
Unions lined up to fight the package, arguing it would not stand up in court because of constitutional protections against the impairment or diminishment of government pensions. But their criticism didn't stop it from reaching the floor.
"While there's truth to the statement the Constitution is not a suicide pact, what we have here is an all-out assault on employees," said John Stevens, a lawyer for the We Are One Illinois labor coalition opposed to the pension deal.