Sweeping Pension Changes Approved

Dec 3, 2013

Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois General Assembly has approved sweeping changes to pensions for state employees. Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign the legislation. It's intended to fix the worst-funded state retirement system in the country.

Illinois is roughly $100 billion short of the money it promised to pay state employees, university workers, and public school teachers.

After years of debate, lawmakers finally agreed on a solution to the problem: cutting benefits, mainly by reducing the three-percent annual increase retirees have gotten on their pensions.

House Speaker Michael Madigan was unusually forceful in kicking off nearly three hours of debate: "This is not a one-sided bill. There will be changes here. Much needed changes. But this bill is a well-thought out, well-balanced bill."

Labor unions disagree, calling it a "dark day" for police, teachers, and other government workers. They say they'll challenge the legislation in court. The Illinois Constitution says government pensions cannot be diminished.

The final votes were 30-24 (pdf) in the Illinois Senate, and 62-53 (pdf) in the Illinois House.