Here’s the latest in pension news for early February.
In a recent speech to the City Club of Chicago, Senate President John Cullerton made clear that he intends to move pension legislation “as quickly as possible.” The Chicago Sun-Times reports he hopes to have the full Senate vote by late February. To fulfill this threat, President Cullerton has introduced Senate Bill 1.
SB 1 combines two pension-cutting bills into one. Affecting the pension systems for teachers, university employees, state employees and legislators, it splits the unfair, unconstitutional benefit cuts offered last legislative session into two parts – Part A and Part B. Part A would unilaterally cut retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). COLAs would be frozen until 2017, delayed until age 67, and capped at very low levels. The COLA caps alone effectively reduce the value of the pension benefit by around one-third over 20 years of retirement, leaving seniors unable to keep pace with inflation.
If Part A is found unconstitutional, then Part B goes into effect. Part B would force workers and retirees to make a no-win “choice” – either “choose” to cut your COLA by one-third over twenty years, or “choose” to lose access to health care in retirement and freeze your pensionable salary.
The coalition believes both Part A and Part B of SB 1 would be found unconstitutional . Unfortunately, even if litigation was successful, it means the legislature would have kicked the can down the road, further weakening the state’s budget and the pension systems.
In downgrading Illinois’ bond rating, Standard and Poor’s warned about exactly this scenario, where legal challenges could lead to “several years” of budget uncertainty.
Given this threat, it is important that you e-mail your legislator and urge them to vote NO on any bill – including Senate Bill 1 – that has not been agreed to by the We Are One Illinois coalition. With some 40 new senators and representatives now in office, we have to make our voices heard. You can view our standard message – and personalize it – by clicking here to e-mail your legislator.
You can also contact committee members considering SB 1 by clicking here to view the Senate Executive Committee roster. By clicking on a member’s name, you will find his or her Springfield and district office phone number.
Be prepared for further requests for your activism in the days to come, depending on how and when the legislature acts.
Even as the fight over SB 1 looms ahead of us, our coalition continues to try to create a structured process toward building consensus around a fair and constitutional piece of legislation. We have been planning and organizing a Pension Summit with the governor and legislative leaders to renew these efforts. However, longtime House Speaker Michael J. Madigan rejected our invitation. Even so, Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan responded constructively, continuing to try to find a collaborative way forward. You can read Carrigan’s response by clicking here.
All the while, Illinois voters are on our side. Read the latest results of our poll by clicking here, which shows the public opposes pension cuts, supports our coalition’s plan, and backs our call for a summit.
Thank you for your past support and current vigilance. We will keep you informed as developments occur. Check our Facebook page for more frequent updates.
- We Are One Illinois