SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois House has approved a comprehensive pension-reform plan for the first time after years of talks.
The House voted 62-51 Thursday to advance the measure sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The Chicago Democrat's proposal is designed to close a $97 billion deficit that dogs the state's pension plans. Underfunding for decades has left the accounts short of what they need.
The legislation requires employees to contribute 2 percent more of their earnings to their pensions. They would also have to delay retirement and accept less-generous annual cost-of-living increases.
The state would guarantee it would make its required contribution every year.
The measure now goes to the Senate where President John Cullerton has his own ideas about reform.
He spoke yesterday just days after House lawmakers approved their third pension-related bill. The latest would reduce and delay cost-of-living increases in state employees' retirement pay.
Pensions have been Quinn's top issue for more than a year. He says lawmakers' work last week was a step in the right direction but there's further to go. Quinn says any reform package should address retirement age and pensionable salary.
Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension debt because lawmakers skipped or shorted pension payments for years.
House lawmakers recently OK'd bills that would cap the salary on which benefits are based to the limit set for Social Security and delay the retirement age incrementally.
The bill is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan and comes out of a laborious process where lawmakers are addressing the pension problem piece by piece instead of a total overhaul at once. House members voted in favor 66-50 yesterday. It's the third scaled-back pension bill the House has recently approved.
Thursday's proposal says that no cost-of-living increases can be taken until retirees reach 67 years of age, or five years after retirement and applies COLAs only to the first $25,000 of an annual pension.
Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability because for years lawmakers either skipped or shorted payments.
Minutes earlier senators rejected the plan; it was shy one vote to pass. Cullerton used a parliamentary procedure to recall the bill. The second vote yesterday was 30-22.
Cullerton's amended plan addresses the Teachers' Retirement System and is estimated to save up to $40 billion over the next 30 years. It also offers employees a choice on whether they want retirement health care or reduced annual cost-of-living increases.
Opponents say the plan doesn't go far enough in addressing Illinois' pension crisis. Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability.
Earlier in the day senators rejected a total overhaul sponsored by state Sen. Daniel Biss.
Quinn said Illinois's $100 billion pension shortfall is the number one problem for the state.
That feeling was echoed by business interests. The Illinois Manufacturers' Association says the time for talk is over and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce calls a failure to address pensions unconscionable.
But the president the Illinois Retail Merchants Association criticized the governor's plan to raise minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.00 per hour, saying it would hurt both employers and job seekers. The governor argued that no one working 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
During the speech, Quinn also said it was time for the state to allow same-sex marriages, and he renewed his call for an assault weapons ban.