The controversial pension reform bill has passed through committee and is now in the state House and Senate as lawmakers prepare to push through a 325-page bill (PDF) that will overhaul the retirement benefits plan for thousands of public employees.
Nine of the 10 members in the pension conference committee voted in favor of the bill late Monday, moving it forward. The bill was sent to lawmakers Monday, giving them less than one full day to read through and digest the massive reform package that could likely lead to "the biggest vote most legislators make in their career," according to State Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego).
Some lawmakers are voicing concerns with the rushed manner in which the bill is going through the general assembly does not allow lawmakers — or the labor community — enough time to analyze the legislation.
“That’s not enough time to digest it,” State Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) said. “You don’t give the people it affects enough time to do some research and crunch the numbers and see how it works. I think it puts everybody who’s affected by it at a serious disadvantage. Their people need a little time to digest this thing.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who spent nearly a decade as a state rep, urged lawmakers to vote the bill down, saying it relied on "accounting gimmicks" and "that neither lawmakers nor the voters have had the time to read" the proposal.
The bill, which many critics argue is very similar to House Speaker Michael Madigan's SB1, would save $160 billion over 30 years, leading to a fully funded system by 2044. The bill looks to increase the retirement age for those over the age of 45; overhaul the cost-of-living adjustments, making it applicable to only a portion of a workers' income; and would allow some public workers to freeze their pensions and instead opt for a defined contribution, 401k-style plan, among other provisions.
Illinois Lt. Gov. and candidate for state comptroller Sheila Simon says the plan puts "too much of the burden on lower income workers and retirees.”
“I appreciate the requirement that the state pay its share, but the legislation should be made more fair for those who have worked and earned their pensions," Simon said. “Many state workers have had no opportunity to contribute to Social Security, and a small pension that does not keep up with inflation is a recipe for poverty."
Check back with Progress Illinois for another report on the proposal and continued updates on the controversial plan.