Speaker Michael Madigan hints at pension deal in January, possibly with only Democratic votesContinue reading.
Madigan sets special pension session, seeks votes on measures to cut benefits
SPRINGFIELD-First it was guns. Now it’s pensions.
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) intends to devote a session of the Illinois House Thursday to up-or-down test votes on a series of politically dicy positions on pension reform that are sure to provoke an outcry from public-sector unions.
Madigan, who employed a similar tactic during a marathon Tuesday session that dealt with more than a dozen concealed-carry proposals, will seek votes on four newly filed amendments that would seek to cut benefits for current and retired rank-and-file state employees, lawmakers, university employees and public school teachers outside of Chicago.
“It’s going to be the first of a number of sessions where we look at the ways people can stabilize the pension systems,” said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. “It’s part of a long conversation about what steps need to be taken to pass a bill out of the House and the Senate and be signed by the governor.”
The first amendment would completely terminate any annual increases in retirement income for all employees hired before Jan. 1, 2011, and the second amendment would do the same but only for any year during which the pension systems are not at least 80 percent funded.
The third amendment would set the minimum retirement age at 67, unless the employee is at least 62 years old with at least 10 years of service. But even then, the employee’s retirement salary would be reduced by one-half percent for each full month he or she is under age 67.
Madigan’s final amendment would require all employees hired before Jan. 1, 2011 to contribute an additional 5 percent from their state salaries towards retirement.
While Brown admitted there’s no specific reason behind why these particular measures were chosen, he said the Speaker views them as the big-ticket items involved in threatening the state’s worst-in-the-nation funded pension system.
“They’ve been discussed, and they’re viewed as some of the most expensive features that threaten the stability of the pension systems,” Brown said.
The move has already received strong criticism from the unions as well as the Illinois Educational Association, which called the move “a serious attack” on pensions.
“Tell your representative that the only proposals they should support are those calling for guaranteed funding of the state pension systems and for a dedicated source of revenue for pensions, such as pension obligation bonds,” said an IEA statement sent to its members Wednesday. “Also, be sure to tell your representative that the employee contributions must not be increased more than two percentage points.”
Similarly, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 warned its members of the move and called for action to prevent the amendments’ passage. AFSCME called Madigan’s series of amendments “a direct attack on state workers’ fundamental right to collective bargaining.”