Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, on Monday demanded GOP gubernatorial candidates offer their solutions to fill the state's looming $3 billion budget hole.| Associated Press files
Updated: July 11, 2013 6:19AM
Although Illinois lawmkers didn’t enact pension legislation this spring, it did settle several debates. The essence of Senate Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, has now been overwhelmingly voted down twice by the Senate — and rightly so because it is not fair or constitutional. SB 1 would make steep cuts to the pension benefits of teachers, nurses, caregivers and other public servants — including those who are already retired.
While SB 1 was soundly rejected by the Senate, SB 2404, a much fairer proposal that will bring stability and solvency to the state’s pension funds, won solid approval. There is no excuse for not giving it a vote in the House in special session.
SB 2404, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton, is now the only legal, comprehensive and credible solution on the table.
Teachers’ Retirement System actuaries have found SB 1 would force employees to pay more for their pensions than what they are worth. In other words, the bill’s backers want a retirement system that penalizes public workers for paying into it.
In addition, SB 1 would breach federal law by cutting pensions so steeply that the Teachers Retirement System and, likely, the State Universities Retirement System would fail to qualify as alternatives to Social Security. This would eventually force school districts, universities and community colleges — as well as employees — to begin paying Social Security payroll taxes, leading to property tax hikes or higher tuition.
These are the hallmarks of an unconstitutional bill that saves absolutely zero and does nothing to improve the state’s credit rating.
Our coalition did not come easily to its willingness to back the pension changes contained in SB 2404, which will impact every public employee and retiree in a state-funded pension system. But the choice and consideration offered by this bill make it much fairer and far less perilous to the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of public servants.
State representatives should be given the chance to vote on the bill. It is the best and swiftest way to resolve this longstanding conflict. The Senate did its job this session — it’s time for the House to do the same.
Michael T. Carrigan,
President, Illinois AFL-CIO, on behalf of the We Are One Illinois union coalition