Temporary Win in Pension Battle – Despite Governor Quinn’s unrelenting efforts to blame all of the state’s financial woes on public employee pensions, legislators refused to go along with his attempts to ram through pension cuts in the recent “lame duck” session.
Backed by spirited rallies, thousands of phone calls, and intensive Capitol lobbying, AFSCME and our partners in the We Are One Illinois union coalition succeeded in staving off a vote on both HB 1447 and SB 1673, measures that would have significantly reduced pension benefits.
HB 1447 cuts pension benefits for current state employees and current retirees in SERS. It has already passed the Senate – and Senate President John Cullerton pushed hard for a House vote on the measure. However, it’s not clear that Republican legislators or Governor Quinn like Cullerton’s approach because it does not address underfunding in the State University or Teachers’ Retirement System.
SB 1673, sponsored by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, also cuts pension benefits, but covers employees in SERS, SURS and TRS. SB 1673 passed out of committee on a 7-2 vote despite powerful testimony from Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer and other labor leaders. However, the measure could not garner sufficient support among legislators and was never called for a floor vote.
Undoubtedly Illinois has a revenue problem, including a serious pension underfunding problem. But the experiences in the lame duck session make clear that Governor Quinn’s effort to push through so-called “reforms” without taking into account the views and concerns of affected employees is not the way to go about addressing that problem.
The We Are One Illinois union coalition has put forward a fair and responsible plan for raising revenues and addressing the pension shortfall. The unions have called for a Pension Summit that would work constructively toward a solution that can be enacted by the General Assembly and upheld by the courts.
A new General Assembly was sworn in this week and will get to work shortly. Before long, pension “reform” will be front and center on the agenda of those legislators as well. AFSCME members should continue to press their state senators and state representatives not to support any legislation that has not been developed in conjunction with unions representing the affected employees and retirees.
Via AFSCME Council 31 Newsletter