Pritchard will not support Senate Bill 512

State Rep. Robert Pritchard
State Rep. Robert Pritchard

State Rep. Bob Pritchard vowed Thursday that he would not support a proposed pension reform bill that could come up for a vote as early as next week.

“I will be a no vote on SB 512, and I will urge my colleagues to also vote no,” said Pritchard (R-Hinckley), whose district includes DeKalb.

His comments came at a forum hosted by the NIU Operating Staff Council with about 100 NIU employees and annuitants in attendance.

“I don’t think it is a good solution, because you, the people who are most affected, have not really been involved in its creation,” he added. “But we’ve got to do something different, because staying on the same course is not sustainable.”

Senate Bill 512, which was put forth during the spring legislative session, was largely the product of work by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.

It offers current teachers, university employees and state workers three pension options: Stay in the current system but pay significantly more, go into a second tier for workers hired after Jan. 1 that has reduced benefits or choose a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

While that bill is unsatisfactory, it is the only idea currently proposed, Pritchard said, noting that he has urged groups and individuals with other ideas to step forward.

“SB 512 is the only option on the table,” Pritchard said. “I have asked representatives from SURS, TRS and the other systems to bring forth ideas, but so far there has been no response.”

That lack of input, Pritchard said, is one reason that sponsors might try to bring the bill back to the floor for a vote during the final three days of the fall veto session, scheduled from Tuesday, Nov. 8, through Thursday, Nov. 10.

Rumors circulated last week that bill sponsor House Republican Leader Tom Cross and Speaker of the House Mike Madigan had struck a deal to each deliver 30 votes, which would be enough to pass the measure.

Pritchard questioned if that was possible.

“At this point, I don’t think he has a chance of it getting passed. Madigan is not pushing support for the bill, and I don’t think Cross can deliver 30 Republicans to vote for it,” Pritchard said.

While not offering a plan of his own, Pritchard did suggest that certain issues should be on the table as bargaining chips. Specifically, he mentioned raising the retirement age, finding a new way to recalculate cost of living adjustments for annuitants, capping pension payments and limiting the ability of retirees to work at the university while collecting a pension.

Members of the audience urged Pritchard to not just vote against SB 512, but also to act as an advocate, relaying the depth of their passion on the issue to his colleagues. Several attendees shared their frustration that solutions under discussion seem only to penalize state employees, who have never failed to make their contribution to the pension plan.

“Nobody in this room has done anything wrong,” said Dave Sinison, a professor of accountancy. “It is the state legislature, going back 25 to 50 years. We don’t see a shared solution here. We see it all falling on us.”

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