After more than three hours of debate in the Senate Executive
Committee, two pension reform bills were passed out of committee and
moved to the Senate floor yesterday.
Both proponents and opponents of the pension reform bills had lawyers testify about the constitutionality of the bills considering that a clause in the Illinois
Constitution bars the erosion of pension benefits, something SB 1 and SB
35 both do.
“Nobody knows for sure what the courts will do,” State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) told the State Journal-Register.
by Senate President John Cullerton, SB 1 combines two proposals which
include lower benefits, higher payments by employees, a reduction in
cost of living adjustments (COLAs) and calls for workers to choose between making larger contributions or having guaranteed health benefits upon
Cullerton’s legislation received support from Gov.
Pat Quinn during his State of the State address in February, but a
group of Illinois’ business leaders signed a letter Wednesday denouncing
it. The letter stated the bill wouldn’t save enough money.
the start of COLAs until age 67, SB 35, sponsored by State Sen. Daniel
Biss (D-Evanston), would make COLA limitations contingent on whether a
person is covered by Social Security. COLAs would be limited to the
first $20,000 of pension benefits for someone who receives social security benefits and $25,000 for
someone who does not.
Biss’ bill forces the state to make its
required pension contributions through a legal mechanism. Illinois’
nearly $100 billion in underfunded pension liability is largely
attributed to the state’s failure to contribute its portion to the
five state pension systems.