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Pension reform plans stall in General Assembly

June 1, 2012

Pension reform bills in both the State Senate and House of Representatives failed to come up for a vote before the midnight, May 31, deadline that marks the end of the spring legislative session.

“While this has been a productive legislative session, our work is not done for the people of Illinois,” Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement. “We have made great headway on stabilizing our pension system and we are very close to a solution, but we are not there yet.”

Quinn indicated he will meet with legislative leaders in the next week to plot the next steps in order to “forge a pension reform agreement as soon as possible and return to Springfield to enact it into law.”

By not passing pension reform measures during the spring session, it will be more difficult to craft and pass meaningful legislation into law because passage in a special session requires a three-fifths super majority rather than a simple majority during regular session.

For the past year, leaders of Illinois’s public universities and colleges, including those at NIU, have been actively involved both on campus and in Springfield to put forth an equitable solution to pension funding.

Many higher education pension reform principles came from an Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) Feb. 9 report authored by Jeffrey R. Brown and Robert F. Rich with considerable input from Steven D. Cunningham. The report, Fiscal Sustainability and Retirement Security: A Reform Proposal for the Illinois State Universities Retirement Systems (SURS), provides an insightful analysis of Illinois’ public pension problem and proposes a set of reforms for the SURS that meet the standards of the Illinois constitution and provides fiscal sustainability for the system built on the concept of shared responsibility among the state, its universities and employees.

Northern Illinois University will continue to actively pursue the pension reform goals it has laid out over the past year in order to provide competitive public sector retirement benefits to attract and retain top faculty, staff and administrators.

“This provides us with a further chance to implement comprehensive reforms that will create a more fiscally sound system that will not compromise employee retirement security and public employer competitiveness,” NIU President John G. Peters said.