A plan for a comprehensive reform of public pensions in Illinois proposed by State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston went down to defeat in the state Senate Wednesday.

The Biss plan, projected to save $150 billion over 30 years, picked up the backing of a dozen Republicans, but only 11 Democrats, and fell seven votes short of the 30 needed for passage.

A smaller-scale proposal from Senate President John Cullerton, designed to save $18 billion, just barely squeaked through with the 30 votes required for passage.

Cullerton’s plan would reduce benefits only for current downstate and suburban teachers. The Biss proposal would have affected four retirement systems covering teahers, lawmakers, rank-and-file state workers and university employees.

It would have required bigger contributions from employees, scaled back cost-of-living increases for retirees and phased in a higher retirement age.

The Cullerton plan would make retiring teachers chooose between a 3-percent cost of living adjustment or state-subsidized health insurance.

In a statement, Biss said that despite the defeat, he appreciated the bipartisan support his bill received. He called Cullerton’s plan “a step in the right direction” that he hoped would “open the door to further meaningful action in both chambers.”

He said he’s cautiously optimistic that in coming weeks lawmakers will take further action to achieve a sustainable retirement system.

Related stories

Illinois Senate OK’s pension-reform bill that won’t affect current retirees (Chicago Sun-Times)

Senate swings, misses on sweeping pension overhaul (Chicago Tribune)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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