Peoria Public Radio Staff
Thu March 21, 2013
Pension overhaul gets IL Senate approval
The Illinois Senate has passed a pension overhaul, but it only affects suburban and downstate teachers. It doesn't touch state employees' and university workers' retirement benefits.
The state doesn't pay the pensions of teachers who work for Chicago Public Schools, so they're not a part of the legislation. But Illinois does pay the employers' share of retirement benefits for all other teachers. The measure approved by the Illinois Senate would force teachers to choose between taking a reduced pension, or retaining access to state-backed health care upon retirement.
It took two tries, passing only after Democratic Senator Dave Koehler of Peoria switched his vote. Koehler says he initially voted no because it didn't appear there were enough votes for it to pass. When it became clear he could put it over the edge, he kept a promise and voted "yes" on the second attempt.
Koehler says he likes that this version doesn't affect retired teachers, many of whom don't get Social Security nor Medicare.
"We have to understand that there are no good or easy decisions to make in any of the pension bills that are going to come before us," Koehler says.
Still, teachers complain their singled out. Other critics, including Republicans, say the plan doesn't save enough money when the state's pension funds are nearly 100 billion dollars in debt. But a more comprehensive, different plan failed to get enough votes to pass the Senate.