I really don’t have a problem with this, but then, I’m not a state worker.
A bipartisan Illinois General Assembly handed Gov. Pat Quinn a victory Wednesday, sending him an overhauled state pension system, cutting benefits for new city and state employees to save money for woefully underfunded retirement systems.
The measure requires future workers to work until age 67 to get full retirement benefits, sets a maximum salary on which pensions may be calculated and limits annual increases in payments. There would be no change in benefits for current employees.
Legislative Democrats said the changes would save more than $100 billion — although they didn’t have exact figures from experts — over several decades for 13 state and local pension systems covered by Illinois law, including state programs that are underfunded by $80 billion.
But it has labor unions that represent government employees angry. They point out that slicing future benefits does nothing to reduce the outstanding liability.
With a 92-17 House vote and a Senate tally of 48-6, the action reflected rare agreement between House Democrats and minority Republicans, who have sparred for years over what has become an $11 billion deficit, who is responsible and how to fix it.
"It’s very important to send the signal," said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. "It’s very important to save the money, billions of dollars that we won’t have to pay into the system in the future."
It’s a political and strategic triumph for Democrat Quinn, who unsuccessfully pursued such a two-tiered pension program last year to reduce the amount of money the state must contribute to retirement systems while it wrestles with a budget deficit.
A statement from Quinn praised the effort to "stabilize the system, protect current state employees and provide attractive pension benefits to future state workers."
Look, I have colleagues who are working happily past 70. Is it fair that the state lost fiscal discipline and hacked into pensions in the past to try to balance the budget? No, not at all. But we’re all living longer now, and work is not a horrible thing to do.
This is only the beginning of the cutbacks for Illinois, and does not close the $11 billion deficit right now. But it’s a start.