At least one group hopes IL pension reform bill fails - – Rockford’s News Leader

At least one group hopes IL pension reform bill fails

Phil Martini, SEIU Local 73 Vice President Phil Martini, SEIU Local 73 Vice President

Pension reform takes a step forward in the Illinois General Assembly. Lawmakers have gone round and round on the topic for years. But that talk ends tomorrow with legislators scheduled to take a vote. A bi-partisan committee approved the plan within the last half hour. The deal's now headed to the House and Senate. It's supposed to finally bring a resolution to the more than $100-billion in pension debt.


"We're hoping for this bill to be voted down," says Phil Martini, SEIU Local 73 Vice President.


The service employees union is one of many labor groups across the state hoping to see this version of the pension reform bill fail. The plan would save an expected $160 billion over 30 years.

But to do that the plan raises the retirement age for many public workers and reduces cost of living increases for retirees. That's got some union members urging a no vote.


"A lot of our members don't get social security benefits. They only get these pensions and with an average wage of about $30,000 these pensions will not amount to anything. They are looking at working the rest of their lives," says Martini.


The union is not the only one who opposes the plan. Republican State Representative John Cabello says it doesn't go far enough and he will likely vote against it.


"You haven't added the judges in this bill. They haven't taken away the lawmakers pensions in this bill. There needs to be some checks and balances in here. They are saying that they are promising that they are going to make the pension payments from here on out. But they have been saying that forever," says Cabello.


Besides the funding guarantee there would also be a 401-k style option and the availability of employees to reduce contributions.


"I just believe after years of inaction lawmakers need to come up with a resolution. I think the inaction and uncertainty is just making worse. Is this the best plan to move forward, I don't know. I'm still making that determination but I think inaction is just as bad," says State Senator Steve Stadelman.


The service workers union says it wants this plan voted down in hopes of a different pension reform bill will be brought forward. It along with other labor groups worked with lawmakers on a bill in the spring but that solution wasn't brought up for a vote.

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