As the General Assembly and the Governor struggle to come together on a budget compromise that prioritizes reductions to government spending and waste, while also advancing associated structural reforms intended to provide the state with long-term fiscal solvency and stability, momentum seems to be building in favor of compromise pension proposals introduced by Senate Republican lawmakers that could form the foundation for positive negotiations moving forward.
On Friday, the Governor announced a number of House lawmakers have pledged their support for the proposal pending in the Senate, a positive development and a significant platform upon which Senate Republicans say consensus could be built.
Here is what people are saying:
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno
“These proposals can be considered building blocks toward a comprehensive solution. Working together on those issues where there is agreement, such as pension reform, may help generate some momentum toward our ultimate goal of a balanced, bipartisan budget for Illinois,” said Radogno.
Deputy Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady
“Our pension systems have been chronically underfunded for years and, frankly, it’s left us with quite a mess. It’s time we tackle this issue and get some real reforms in place.
“This plan will save $1 billion now, and another billion down the road. That’s a good deal for the people of Illinois.
“The reforms contained in this package have received bipartisan support in the past, and as we continue to discuss a more comprehensive budget solution, I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle can join us to get them passed now to offer some much needed relief to the taxpayers of Illinois.”
Senator Michael Connelly
“The so-called 'Grand Bargain' is in a holding pattern while we wait for Democrats to agree to freeze property taxes, make Illinois more competitive and cut spending to balance the budget.
“But that shouldn't prevent us from moving forward on areas where we agree, including pension reform. Republicans want pension reform that helps the whole state save money while the mayor of Chicago is asking for pension assistance to solve his own pension crisis. We have bills already filed and supported by Senate Democrats that we can move right now to solve both issues. We should honor the agreement reached last summer, and hopefully moving a pension deal now will spark momentum toward a larger budget deal as well."
Senator Jil Tracy
“Time is of the essence. We feel the urgency to get these bills moving forward.
“We want to show good faith that we, as Republicans, want to move this process forward. We are willing to meet on some things that we may not have supported in the past. We are trying to find common ground.”
Chicago Tribune Editorial Board
“One way to revive the patient: Rauner suggested passing Cullerton's pension changes that have been part of the grand compromise along with a $215 million payment for Chicago teachers' pensions. […]
“Well, lawmakers, here's your chance. Swallow hard, work together and get it done. […]
“Don't give up, senators. Keep talking. The condition of the state continues to worsen at an alarming rate. There is no time for grudges.”
Information on the pension reform package:
The reforms contained in this Senate Bill 2172 and Senate Bill 2173 have received bipartisan support in the past. The package incorporates pension reform concepts that have been supported by both Governor Bruce Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton.
Senate Bill 2172 includes the Tier 3 and budgetary items of SB16 along with the text of SB 2822 from the previous General Assembly. It creates an optional hybrid Tier 3 for new hires, as well as a voluntary 401k program for active Tier 1 employees and an optional pension buy out provision. Additionally, the legislation institutes provisions designed to curb late-career salary spiking, and closes the General Assembly Retirement System pension plan to new entrants. Among other provisions, the legislation also provides $215 million for Chicago Public Schools pensions in Fiscal Year 2017.
The second component, SB 2173, includes the consideration model portions of SB16 previously proposed by Cullerton. This measure applies to active Tier 1 employees of the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS), the State Employee Retirement System (SERS), the State Universities Retirement System (SURS), the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), and the Chicago Teachers Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago (CTFP). Retirees are not impacted by this measure.