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On the eve of a special session of the state legislature to deal with public employee pension reform, State Rep. Daniel Biss of Evanston will host a public forum on the issue tonight in Skokie.

Biss says Erika Lindley, the executive director of ED-RED, an advocacy group for suburban school districts; Dick Ingram, the executive director of the Teachers’ Retirement System; and Louis Kosiba, executive director of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, will speak at the 7 p.m. session at Temple Beth Israel, 3601 Dempster St.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, hundreds of representatives of public employee unions filled the director’s lawn at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and booed Gov. Quinn and chanted “Liar” as he took the stage.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said he is not hopeful that a pension reform package will pass the Illinois General Assembly, which goes into special session Friday, despite an $84 billion gap in funding.

Michael Carigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, said Quinn refuses to honor state workers’ collective-bargaining agreements, is trying to reduce pension benefits for workers, and wants to lay off thousands of them.

And a catastrophic pension-fund collapse may be what  Illinoisans need to understand the urgency of pension reform, House Republican leader Rep. Tom Cross said.

“I think folks in this state and around the country don’t think it could happen to them. They say, ‘That happens in Europe. That happens in faraway places. That’s not going to happen here,’” said Cross of Oswego.

“Well, when you’re at $130 billion of unfunded liability, I’d say it’s pretty real. And I think perhaps until something dramatic happens, we may not do anything in a real substantive way. It’s a difficult conversation, but it’s not one that’s going to go away.”

Jayette Bolinski and Ben Yount of Illinois Watchdog contributed reporting for this story.

Related stories

Madigan says discord between state and unions is ‘natural conflict.’

Cross: Illinoisans will understand need for pension reform — right after collapse

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Is Pension reform needed?

    Kudos to Daniel Biss for organizing tonight's discussion with 2 leaders of the largest pension plans in Illinois.

    Tonight people will have an opportunity to listen to the presentations and get their questions addressed.

    Some people question the need for pension reform. Consider the current situation and think about the future.

    To appropriately address this issue, one must look at all the pensions in Illinois. For example, as Evanston residents, we assume the responsibility for Police, Fire and Municipal employees and their pensions. The police pension fund and fire pension fund are separate and managed locally. Municipal employees are covered by the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) and is headed by Louis Kosiba – He will attend tonight.

    http://www.imrf.org/

    At the County level, Cook County runs its own pension plan for county employees.

    http://www.cookcountypension.com/

    At the State level, there are 5 plans; Judge's Retirement System(JRS), General Assembly Retirement System(GARS), State Employees' Retirement System(SERS), State Universities Retirement System(SURS) and the Teachers Retirement System(TRS) – http://trs.illinois.gov

    TRS is the largest public pension fund in Illinois and is headed by Dick Ingram – He will also attend tonight.

    So in summary, Evanston residents directly and indirectly assume the responsibility for City, County & State pension plans. Many times numbers are discussed, but only pertain to one fund or a set of funds. Rarely if ever, has one looked at all the funds in their totality. Tonight's discussion will primarily focus on IMRF & TRS.

    Unfortunately over the last 10-20 years Illinois pension plans in general have not been managed appropriately, and combined with demographic trends and financial challenges, pensions will continue to place budgetary pressures at the City, County and State levels. IMRF is the one exception and is well funded but even it has recently faced growing problems.

    All public employees deserve a fair and safe pension, and taxpayers deserve to know the real costs and appropriately fund pensions and benefits at the levels deemed fair and appropriate.

    Under the current conditions, several of the plans could run out of money meaning retirees won't get a pension check, or a growing portion of the funding burden will be placed on our children and grandchildren.

    Cook County Commissioner, Bridget Gainer, hightlighted the challenges facing the Cook County Pension Fund in a recent report: http://www.cookcountypension.com/

    This report shows that Cook County Pension Fund is only 57% funded, and will go bankrupt in 2038.

    Come tonight to learn more about this critically important issue.

     

     

     

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