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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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4 Comments

  1. Shame Shame Shame

    Hopefully, Biss can now see that it is his own political party that continues to screw the citizens of Illinois. He should feel some shame and not cover up for Cullerton. There is nothing else to be said.

  2. Waste of our time.

    Biss's bill couldn't pass the Illinois Constitutional provision that protects public pensions from this type of maneuver.  Cullerton's bill might get past legal protections because of the choice it provides employees/retirees.  There just was a Illinois court ruling stating State sponsored health care for retirees IS NOT protected by the Illinois Constitution.  Allowing the individual to decide what works best for them, i.e. State subsidized health care or compounded COLAs will save money and not be over turned by a lawsuit.

    1. Constitution

      There are many constitutional lawyers that believe that the Illinois Constitution only needs to provide the union with the pension that has already been earned and that a new pension formula can be instituted for this point forward. This same thing has been done in the private sector a thousand-plus times in the last 20 years.        There are many people that have claimed to be a constitutional scholar but have proven to know little about it or completely disregard it. One of them is named Barack Obama.

    2. STATE SUBSIDIZED?

      UM…

      If the state was subsidizing health insurance, Why does this insurance come from the TRS that the state has shortchanged in funding?

      Teachers pay an extra amount out of every paycheck to subsidize retired teachers health insurance. It is called THIS.

      "Active members make a contribution to help fund the Teachers’ Health Insurance Security (THIS) Fund. The fund finances the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP), which is administered by the Department of Central Management Services." – TRS Website

      So the choice is No COLA or No health insurance that you have been paying into as a separate deduction for years.

      Just pay what you owe.

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