Government
4:42 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Illinois Senate approves pension measure

 Teachers would have to make a major decision about their retirement benefits under a measure the Illinois Senate approved Wednesday.  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky has the latest on lawmakers' attempts to overhaul the state's pension systems. 

    The legislation would require any teacher working at a downstate or suburban public school to make a choice:

-keep his or her current pension benefits, but lose access to state-backed health care upon retirement.-or take a reduced pension, but keep that access to healthcare.President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, says it'll save the state between 18 and 44 billion dollars over the long term.

While opponents say that's not enough, Cullerton says it meets a more important test … “It’s constitutional. It has the strongest argument for being constitutional.  And if were were to pass a bill that’s unconstitutional it would be a year before we’d find that out and we would have lost a year of savings.”

 The Senate earlier rejected a different, and more comprehensive plan, which would have affected state and university employees’ pensions as well as teachers’.  Cullerton says more “heavy lifting” is ahead.  That’s the case in the House as well … where it’s unclear what kind of reception the President’s plan will receive.  Cullerton was able to get it through his chamber, though it took two tries.  The first time, it came up one vote short.  Minutes later, after a single Democratic Senator changed his vote, it passed … with the bare minimum 30 votes needed.