Illinois Go. Pat Quinn Pushes Pension Reform - FOX 32 News Chicago

Illinois Go. Pat Quinn Pushes Pension Reform

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (FOX 32 News) -

Governor Quinn proposed public employee pension Friday reforms that he says will save the state $65 billion.

Quinn is offering state workers two choices:

  • Keep their current level of benefits, but their pension would be based on their current salary, regardless of future pay increases and, they could not have the so-called "gold-plated" health care plan retirees enjoy now.
  • Join a new retirement plan with slightly lower benefits, but the eventual pension would be calculated by their highest salary.

Now the General Assembly has to take the next step in this political minefield.

Republican leaders were pleased that so many of the Democratic governor's pension proposals resembled reforms they've pushed for years.

"We're glad the Administration and the Democrats have finally got religion." said State Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont). "You know, had we done some of these things earlier, we probably wouldn't be in as deep a hole as we're in right now."

Digging that hole ever-deeper are public employee retirement benefits. They consumed 3 percent of the state budget a few years ago. It's now 15 percent and growing so fast they've already gobbled up every penny of last year's big income tax increase.

"We do not want important missions, such as investing in education, especially those of young children, to be squeezed out because of the demands of a retirement system of state employees and those who are in the state employee system," Quinn said.

To help control costs, the governor asked for a 3 percent increase in employee contributions; phasing in a new retirement age, 67; no cost-of-living COLA raises for pensioners until 5 years AFTER retirement; COLA raises would be lower and NOT be compounded, as they are now.

In exchange, the governor said, public employees would get new guarantees regarding their retirement benefits.

"We'll have a secure retirement for those who've worked in the public sector, whether it be teachers or here in the State of Illinois," Quinn said.

The governor noted that only 22 percent of the employees covered by state pension plans are actually state employees. Most the other 78 percent are suburban and Downstate public school teachers.

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