From Illinois Public Radio - News Local/State -

House Pension Plan Supporters Say Bill Saves $187B

Darlene Senger and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions

Reps. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) (left) and Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room. (Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio) (Brian Mackey/IPR)

Members of the Illinois House continued pushing for their version of a pension overhaul on Tuesday.

The Democratic leaders of the House and Senate remain deadlocked over the best approach to fixing Illinois $100 billion pension problem. The latest twist could affect how public school teachers' pensions are funded.

One of the more contentious issues in the debate over government pensions in Springfield has been who should pay for teachers' retirement benefits.

Teachers pay part of their salaries toward their pensions. But for years, state government has paid the employers' share of pension costs ... at least for every school district outside Chicago.

House Speaker Michael Madigan calls that a "free lunch," and says local school districts ought to pay for their own employees.

Legislation to carry out this so-called cost shift has been controversial. Downstate and suburban lawmakers whose districts would be affected say it would result in property tax increases.

The House prefers a plan sponsored by Madigan that unilaterally cuts pension benefits.

Supporters of pension legislation that passed the Illinois House say their plan would save the state $187 billion over 30 years.

Reps. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) presented an analysis Tuesday. They say it shows the House's pension measure would save Illinois more than three times as much as a plan approved by the Senate.

Nekritz (D-Northbrook) said under the House's version of a pension overhaul, that's no longer an issue.

"If Senate Bill 1 passes, there would be no shift, because the employer normal cost would be zero," Nekritz said.

Basically, that means so much money would be saved by slashing benefits and increasing employee contributions, it wouldn't cost the schools anything.

Senate President John Cullerton and labor unions believe the House plan is unconstitutional and would save nothing because the courts would throw it out.

Cullerton's union-backed plan was approved by the Senate. It offers workers and retirees a choice of benefits.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics