Pension legislation passes both houses

Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield. Photo courtesy Illinois Board of Tourism.The Illinois General Assembly approved a pension reform plan Tuesday in hopes to eliminate the state’s $100 billion pension shortfall. The House voted 62-53 in favor of the plan just minutes after the Senate approved the measure 30-24. Senate Bill 1 has been sent to Gov. Pat Quinn, who previously said he will sign it.

“We continue to have concerns this legislation will have an adverse effect on our faculty, staff and annuitants and place NIU and Illinois’ public universities at a disadvantage in recruiting faculty and staff.  However, the General Assembly has spoken; now we anticipate this legislation will quickly move to the courts where its merits will ultimately be decided,” said NIU President Douglas Baker.

Public employee unions oppose the bill and vowed to quickly take legal action, arguing parts of the measure are unconstitutional.

The measure approved Tuesday emerged last week following negotiations by a bipartisan pension conference committee and then meetings of Illinois’ legislative leaders, who say it will save the state $160 billion over 30 years and fully fund the systems by 2044.

Details of the plan, which were released the Friday after Thanksgiving, include cuts to retiree cost of living adjustments (COLAs), delayed retirements for those aged 45 and under, and a one percent drop in employee contributions among other provisions.

“NIU has been a willing and engaged participant in the pension reform discussions for almost three years and believes the principles outlined in the Six Simple Steps proposal would have accomplished the overall objectives regarding savings to the state while being more equitable to our faculty and staff, many of whom will not receive Social Security,” said Steven Cunningham, NIU Vice President of Administration and co-author of the Six Simple Steps.

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