Senate Republicans: No pension shift to local schools – DailyHerald.com

30 May

Like their counterparts in the Illinois House, Senate Republicans are protesting proposals to shift some of the state’s retirement costs onto local school districts and community colleges, raising questions about whether lawmakers can approve any pension reforms by Thursday’s deadline.

“I hope everyone has a little flexibility left so we can get the job done,” said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont.

An Illinois Senate committee this morning began debating separate pension reform bills affecting state workers, public school teachers and university employees, perhaps giving lawmakers an option to approve retirement changes for some people and not others.

As a group, the bills involved in the Senate debate mirror a House plan that stalled Tuesday as Republicans staunchly opposed shifting pension costs from the state to local school districts. Democrats in the House could try to move that plan today, split it into separate bills in the hope some pension reform can pass, abandon it for the Senate option or go in a different direction altogether.

The House and Senate have to agree on the same proposal, and Gov. Pat Quinn has to sign it, before it can become law.

Either way, lawmakers are hustling to meet their Thursday deadline because after that, legislation that takes effect immediately requires more votes, making controversial plans more difficult — if not impossible — to approve and perhaps delaying any action on pensions until after the Nov. 6 election.

As a group, the three Senate proposals would:

• Make local schools pay for the cost of teachers pensions going forward, starting with schools paying an additional 1 percent of teacher payroll costs in each of five years beginning in 2013-2014. Local school districts would also assume future liability created by investment losses.

• Guarantee the state pay its share of pension costs every year. Delinquency in doing this over decades has largely caused the state’s pension mess.

• Cut a yearly cost-of-living pension increase for current and future retirees, targeting the single biggest factor in rising pension costs. As a group, the plan includes state workers, teachers, university employees and lawmakers. Judges would be exempt.

The effort comes as the state is trying to curb its rising retirement costs, which cuts into what it can spend on other programs. Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget director, Jerry Stermer, called the state’s $83 billion in pension debt a “profound chasm” that could continue to drag on the state’s budget and eventually bankrupt Illinois’ pension funds.

“This plan rescues our pension system from disaster,” Stermer said.

via Senate Republicans: No pension shift to local schools – DailyHerald.com.

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