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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois labor unions have filed a lawsuit seeking a new plan to reduce the state's $100 billion pension shortfall declared unconstitutional.
 
The We Are One Illinois Coalition of public employee unions filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Sangamon County Circuit court.
 
The long-anticipated legal challenge comes weeks after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law and ahead of his annual State of the State address.
 
The bill approved by the Legislature in early December saves an estimated $160 billion, largely by cutting benefits for employees and retirees.
 
Unions say it violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished. Several other lawsuits have been filed on behalf of retirees.
 
Supporters of the plan believe the Court will uphold it because it's necessary to repair the state's finances.
Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois' House Speaker told a bipartisan legislative committee that the state's pension systems are "just too rich" to be afforded in the future.

Madigan is a Chicago Democrat and the state's longest-serving House Speaker. He says Tuesday that a $160 billion reform proposal was designed to keep long-term low-income workers in mind.

He called the plan a balanced approach, "not just a reduction in benefits."

Leaders announced the compromise last week. A vote is expected Tuesday afternoon.

The proposal pushes back workers' retirement age on a sliding scale, has a funding guarantee, adds a 401(k)-style option and reduces employee contributions.

It'd also replace the current 3 percent annual cost-of-living increases. Retirees would continue to receive that rate up to a certain amount of annuity payments, based on years of employment.

 
Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - Public employees could see significant reductions in long-term retirement income under a proposed bill that Illinois legislative leaders are pushing as a way to solve the worst-in-the-nation pension crisis. One of the biggest cuts would come from a change in annual cost-of-living adjustments. The proposal would change the COLA increase from the current rate of 3 percent compounded annually on the full annuity benefit. Retirees instead would receive increases at that rate only up to a certain amount of annuity benefit.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has developed a formula to calculate estimated changes in retirement income over the years if the bill passes, based on the best information available right now, pension specialist Amanda Kass said.

Here are three scenarios:

------------

Employee 1: Retired teacher, 30 years of service

Initial annual benefit: $67,000

Annual pension benefit after 20 years of retirement: $120,680 a year under the current pension system; $91,000 under the proposed changes

Cumulative 20-year decrease: $282,632

------------

Employee 2: Retired Department of Children and Family Services caseworker, 20 years of service

Initial annual benefit: $50,000

Annual pension benefit after 20 years of retirement: $90,306 under current system; $63,000 under proposed changes

Cumulative 20-year decrease: $261,215

------------

Employee 3: Central Management Services data processor, age 43, planning to retire in 15 years with 30 years of service

Initial annual benefit: $72,000

Annual pension benefit after 20 years of retirement: $130,000 under current system; $85,400 under proposed changes

Cumulative 20-year decrease: $441,700

Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are set to consider a potentially historic plan to solve the state's worst-in-the-nation $100 billion pension crisis.

   Tuesday will begin with a morning hearing where a bipartisan committee of lawmakers will discuss the proposal. Opponents and supporters also will get a chance to weigh in.

   A clear majority of committee members signed off on the plan Monday, sending it to the floor of the House and Senate.

   Illinois has the nation's worst-funded state pension systems. The bill before the Legislature on Tuesday is estimated to save $160 billion over 30 years by trimming retirement benefits.

   Illinois' legislative leaders and the governor have spent recent days drumming up support for the proposal.

   Labor unions say it's unfair to retirees and believe that some elements are unconstitutional.

 
Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A bipartisan committee of lawmakers has approved a plan to deal with Illinois' $100 billion pension problem. The measure now moves to the House and Senate for consideration.

The Associated Press confirmed with six members of the 10-member panel that they had signed the measure Monday after arriving in Springfield for a special session.

Leaders announced the plan last week. It comes nearly five months after a special committee was formed to tackle the problem.

The proposal pushes back workers' retirement age on a sliding scale, has a funding guarantee, adds a 401k-style option and reduces the employee contribution.

It also would replace the current 3 percent annual cost-of-living increases. Retirees would continue to receive that rate up to a certain amount of annuity payments, based on years of employment.

Published in Local News
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 12:38

Madigan spokesman says pension deal reached

CHICAGO (AP) - A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says legislative leaders have reached a deal to solve the state's $100 billion pension crisis.

Steve Brown says he was told of the agreement following a leaders meeting Wednesday.

Brown says the speaker's staff is putting together an "explanatory memo" for lawmakers and will send details of the proposed legislation to them Friday.

The leaders have been working with a proposal developed over the summer and autumn by a bipartisan committee of lawmakers. The committee plan would save the state $138 billion over 30 years.

The state's pension crisis, deemed the nation's worst, comes after lawmakers have shorted or skipped payments to its public pension funds for decades.

Both the House and Senate are being called back to meet in Springfield Dec. 3.

Published in Local News
Thursday, 21 November 2013 17:10

Unions plan 'emergency days' to lobby lawmakers

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Legislative leaders discussed a developing plan to deal with Illinois' $100 billion pension crisis as the state's biggest employee unions planned a lobbying push to oppose it.

The "We are One Coalition" represents the state's major public employee unions. It alerted members this week about "emergency call-in days" next week and on Dec. 2-3.

Members are being asked to call lawmakers and urge them to vote against pension bills that don't have union support.

Legislative leaders spoke Thursday about a plan they say could save close to $150 billion over 30 years. Officials reported progress but said more meetings are expected. Lawmakers have been alerted about a possible special session on Dec. 3.

Unions say they weren't consulted about the plan and that they think elements of it are unconstitutional.

Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A top aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan is telling Illinois lawmakers to be ready for a special session in Springfield in December.

   Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes told Democrats in an email Wednesday that a "possible" session could begin Dec. 3. He told lawmakers to "keep other days that week available."

   The email was sent around the time Madigan and other legislative leaders were meeting in Chicago to discuss a deal to solve the state's $100 billion pension crisis.

   Dec. 3 is the day after the deadline for candidates to file paperwork in the 2014 campaign, including anyone challenging incumbents.

   House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says progress is being made on pensions but any agreement is on hold until the cost savings of proposed solutions can be calculated.

 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois' top Democratic legislative leaders are asking the Illinois Supreme Court to reject Gov. Pat Quinn's appeal of a lawsuit over legislative pay.

   Quinn halted lawmakers' pay in July until pension reform was achieved. A Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled last month that the move was unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to be sent back pay, with interest. An appeal is being reviewed by the state Supreme Court.

   House Speaker Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton dispute Quinn's argument that the Illinois constitution only bans mid-term increases in pay.Illinois' unfunded pension liability is close to $100 billion, due largely to lawmakers shorting or skipping payments. A committee of lawmakers has been working on one possible reform package that could save $138 billion over 30 years.

 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A proposed solution to Illinois' historic $100 million pension crisis is hanging in the balance as the state Legislature's October veto session approaches.

   Key Democrats on a pension panel are pushing a plan to save the state $138 billion over the next 30 years, but Republican lawmakers want a number of changes. House Speaker Michael Madigan hasn't yet committed to calling the proposal for a vote, either.

   Senate President John Cullerton supports the deal and calls it "less unconstitutional" than a previous plan that would have saved $163 billion.

   Illinois' five public-employee retirement funds have an unfunded liability of about $100 billion. The annual contribution to the fund, plus payments on past pension bonds, is about $7.65 billion this year. That number will increase in years to come without action.

 
Published in Local News
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