Area Chambers of Commerce members met Monday at Weaver Ridge Country Club to discuss their priorities for federal and state lawmakers. The event was hosted by the Central Illinois Regional Chamber Legislative Effort, or CIRCLE. Peoria Chamber of Commerce President Rob Parks says pension reform is the number one issue facing the state. Parks says CIRCLE is concerned with the transfer of pension costs from the State to other units of government, especially schools.
“I don’t know who made the decision a long time ago that school districts didn’t pay, as the employer, all of their share. But somebody made that decision, so we need to transition that as opposed to moving it all in one big-fail swoop,” Parks says.
Parks also says state pensions should follow the policy of many private businesses and move towards a hybrid of defined benefits and contributions.
“Almost all private sector employers have moved away from defined benefits to defined contributions,” says Parks. You put in a certain amount, you invest it in a variety of different vehicles and you work off those investments.”
Park also says Illinois should increase the age of retirement, move towards simple cost-of-living adjustments for pensions and increase retirees’ share of healthcare costs. A number of state and federal legislators attended Monday’s event, including U-S Representatives Cheri Bustos and Aaron Schock, State Senator Dave Koehler and state Representative Mike Unes. Parks says CIRCLE is also organizing a bus trip to Springfield for area chambers of commerce next month. She says the purpose of the trip is to talk to state lawmakers about important issues, including pension reform.