Pensions - WUIS Special Coverage

Below are the latest stories on the pension issue in Illinois.  

Pages

Election 2014
5:07 am
Mon October 13, 2014

Removing The Pension Protection Clause

Credit Hannah Meisel

Illinois' ability to change retirement benefits of government workers is limited because of a provision in the state Constitution. But what about trying to make that a non-issue, by doing away with that clause?

Article XIII, Sect. 5 of the Illinois Constitution is direct: pension benefits, it says, "shall not be diminished or impaired."

Nevertheless, a law passed last year cuts benefits for current workers and retirees. Whether that squares with the Constitution is currently the subject of a lawsuit.

Read more
Pensions
4:54 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Pensions: Vexing Illinois Politicians Since 1917

The tally in the Illinois House on the pension overhaul law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The underfunding of the state's pensions have grabbed headlines the past several years, and finally reached the political tipping point late last year when legislators passed an overhaul of the systems. It's a recent response to a very old problem.

It was Gov. Pat Quinn who signed the law that reduces state workers' and most public school teachers' pensions -- a controversial plan that's at the center of a lawsuit.

Read more
Election 2014
10:16 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Rauner Trying To Soften Image On Pensions

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is seen in this August 2013 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican candidate Bruce Rauner continues trying to soften his image when it comes to government employees. This comes after he won the nomination in part by relentlessly attacking public employee unions.

Rauner has called for all current state employees to have their pensions frozen and be put into 401(k)-style retirement plans. Many consider that even more harsh than the pension reductions Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law last year.

Read more
Pensions
11:31 pm
Sun September 7, 2014

Moody's: Illinois' "Daunting Pension Challenges" Faced By Its Local Governments Too

Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston
Credit ILGA.gov

A new report from Moody's investors service says Illinois still faces "daunting pension challenges" despite a 2013 law intended to curb the state's pension costs. So do its cities. 

The Moody's report lays it out starkly: Illinois' pension burden is significantly higher than other states. And yet Illinois' legal framework gives "very limited" flexibility for dealing with that.

Read more
Education Desk
6:08 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Illinois Schools In Pension Limbo

Credit WFIU/flickr

It’s expected to be some time before the courts decide whether Illinois can trim retirement benefits for public school teachers, university workers, and state employees. But the uncertainty continues to affect the credit outlook of schools and community colleges across the state.  

Read more
Statehouse
12:55 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Unions Ask For Quick Ruling On Pensions

Credit sangamon.co.il.us

A coalition of labor unions and state retirees is asking a judge for an expedited ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of Illinois' pension law.  

Attorneys filed the motion in Sangamon Circuit Court Thursday. They want Judge John Belz to factor in a Supreme Court decision that found health insurance premiums were a protected retirement benefit for state workers.  

Read more
Election 2014
5:31 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Two Teachers Unions Back Quinn Despite Pension Strife

  Governor Pat Quinn now has the support of the two statewide teachers unions. The Illinois Federation of Teachers endorsed Quinn Wednesday despite the union's opposition to Quinn's ideas for pension changes.

The IFT is one of the groups suing Quinn for the pension overhaul law passed late last year that would reduce public employee benefits, including those for teachers.

But the union's president, Dan Montgomery, says the election is bigger than the ongoing lawsuit.

Read more
Pensions
6:29 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Illinois' Credit Prognosis: Negative

Wall Street's view of Illinois' financial health has taken a hit, thanks largely to the state budget that took effect at the start of this month. Pensions also continue to be a drag. 

When Illinois Democrats passed the state's latest budget, many seemed to hold their nose. Credit ratings agencies are more direct: Standard & Poors has revised Illinois' credit outlook to "negative." 

It says the new budget "is not structurally balanced and will contribute to growing."

Read more
Election 2014
4:29 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Republican Attorney General Candidate: Pension Changes Unconstitutional

Republican candidate for attorney general Paul Schimpf
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General is criticizing incumbent Lisa Madigan for defending the state's pension overhaul law, which he thinks is unconstitutional.

A clause in the state's constitution says that once earned, pension benefits shall not be diminished.

The pension law, passed last year, law reduces cost of living benefits paid out to state employees and public school teachers. That, and other changes, haven't actually taken effect yet; a lawsuit challenging the law is ongoing.

Read more
State Week
2:11 pm
Fri July 4, 2014

Listen to State Week - July 4, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that state employee pension benefits are protected under the state constitution, countering lawmaker's efforts to overhaul the state's underfunded pension system.

Read more
Pensions
11:26 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Ruling Puts Pension Overhaul In Doubt

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court says free health care is a protected retirement benefit for certain government employees. It was cause for celebration among those who’ve opposed Illinois' attempts to save money by cutting retirement benefits. But Illinois' pension battles are far from over.

Many state retirees used to get premium-free health insurance. When the law was changed to make them pay, a group of them sued.

Read more
Regional
8:04 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Illinois Town Considers Privatizing Fire Dept.

Credit flickr/Terence S. Jones

One of a number of Illinois towns struggling with increasing pension costs wants to save money by shifting control of its fire department to a private company.  

North Riverside officials pitched the proposal at a hearing before state regulators in Chicago on Thursday. Mayor Hubert Hermanek says the move could save $700,000 annually.  

Illinois Municipal League officials say other cities could try similar solutions when the state begins to enforce increasing pension payments in 2016.  

Read more
Statehouse
6:48 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Pension Decision Will Wait Until At Least December

  It could be December before a judge decides on the legality of Illinois' pension overhaul law for at least another five months. Attorneys met Thursday in Sangamon County Court and agreed on a timeline for the case.

Current and retired state employees, teachers and university workers are suing Gov. Pat Quinn over the pension overhaul passed by the General Assembly late last year.

Though it was to have already begun taking effect, a judge has put it on hold until its legality is sorted out in court.

Read more
Pensions
11:03 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Teacher Pension Fund Lowers Expected Investment Return; State's Obligation To Grow

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The Illinois Teachers' Retirement System says it expects a lower return on its pension investments in the next year. That means the state will have to cover more of the cost of teacher pensions.

TRS says it's still a good assumed rate of investment return at 7.5 percent. That falls in line with similar pension systems nationwide. But it's not as profitable as 8-percent, which TRS had been using for the previous few years.

Dave Urbanek is with TRS. He says the unpredictable nature of the international economy spurred the decision to lower the rate.

Read more
Statehouse
6:56 am
Mon June 2, 2014

Legislative Recap: What Lawmakers Did & Didn't Do

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Legislature adjourned its spring session having passed a new state budget and other key measures, but leaving some business undone. Here's a look at what passed and what didn't:  
     BILLS SENT TO GOV. PAT QUINN:  
Budget: A roughly $35.7 billion budget for 2015 keeps funding flat for schools and most state agencies. Majority Democrats acknowledged the budget is ``incomplete'' because it postpones tough votes about whether to slash spending or find new revenue until after November's election.  

Read more
Statehouse
8:05 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Rating Agencies Not Worried About Pension Hold

Credit ILGA.gov

Illinois' pension overhaul might be on hold, but credit ratings agencies say they're not concerned. A Sangamon County judge Wednesday ruled that reductions to public employees' retirement benefits will not go into effect next month, as planned.                                                  

Read more
Pensions
9:48 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Univ. Of Illinois Will Try To Retain Faculty Who Retired Under Wrong Pension Interpretation

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Officials at the University of Illinois say they are willing to work to retain faculty who opted to retire early as a result of mistakes in the state's pension overhaul.

It was a small typo, but it turned out to have big consequences for the state's public universities and community colleges.

Read more
Pensions
4:58 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Hold Placed On Illinois Pension Law

  A judge has blocked Illinois pension overhaul from taking effect next month. It's a temporary victory for government employees who say the law is unconstitutional.

State employees, teachers and university workers were supposed to begin seeing changes to their retirement plans in June. It's part of a sweeping pension overhaul passed late last year.

Read more
Pensions
6:20 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Decision Could Come Today On Pension Delay

The vote in the Illinois House on the 2013 pension overhaul law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A hearing set for this afternoon could determine if some, or even all, of Illinois' new pension law will be suspended.

The pension law is supposed to take effect next month.

The We Are One coalition of unions wants a hold put on the entire law, until a broader lawsuit seeking to have it declared unconstitutional is resolved.

Anders Lindall is a spokesman for AFSCME, the state's largest public employees union. He says once someone retires, that can't be reversed.

Read more
Pensions
12:49 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Deal Reached On University Pensions

Gov. Pat Quinn signs the pension overhaul, known sometimes as Senate Bill 1, into law in December, 2013.
Credit Harvey Tillis / Illinois Information Service

Even as the "We Are One" broad coalition of unions seeks to prevent any of the pension law from taking effect next month, a new agreement would prevent parts of it from being implemented.

It mostly affects university and community college employees nearing the end of their careers.

The deal, between the State Universities Annuitants Association and the attorney general, could put a stop to a surge of retirements at Illinois' public universities.

Read more
Regional
6:00 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Springfield Police Lieutenant Retires Days After Receiving Promotion

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

Earlier this month,  the Springfield Police Department promoted two sergeants to the rank of lieutenant.  One has already retired, able to earn a higher pension because of the promotion.

Under state law, retiring police officers are allowed to collect pension benefits based on rank for their last day of employment.

Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin says a lieutenant retiring at a rank he never served is quote 'offensive.' He says the public doesn't appreciate a "revolving door of promotions right before retirement.”

Read more
Education Desk
4:28 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Higher Ed Retirement Board Accepts Pension Fix

Credit UIS.edu

The board of the State Universities Retirement System has voted to accept an interpretation of last year's Illinois pension reform law that says it won't inadvertently cut university retirees' pension.  

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, (http://bit.ly/RvIgwf) the board's executive committee voted unanimously on Thursday in Chicago to follow other state pension systems and accept the interpretation of the 2013 law.  

Read more
Education Desk
2:20 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Legal Interpretation May Erase Pension Glitch

Credit uis.edu

The State Universities Retirement System now says a troublesome piece of last year's state pension-reform law may not cut retirees' pensions after all.  

William Mabe is the executive director of the retirement system. He tells The (Champaign) News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/QfeCu8 ) that the language in law that would cost retirees' a year of pension should be interpreted as if it didn't _ because it wasn't intended to.  
That's based on the interpretation the Teachers Retirement System has been using when it looks at the law. Now SURS plans to follow suit.  

Read more
Statehouse
7:12 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Downstate Mayors Want Pension Overhaul

Mayors from around the state addressing media in the Capitol
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A couple dozen mayors from throughout Illinois came to Springfield Wednesday, calling on legislators to help fix downstate pension systems that they say are unsustainable.

Municipalities are on the hook for paying local police and firefighters’ retirement benefits.

But the pension rates are set by the state.

Mayors say lawmakers have increasingly “sweetened” benefits – without giving their cities any funding to cover the extra cost.

It’s left many pension systems severely underfunded.

Read more
Statehouse
11:25 am
Tue April 29, 2014

Senator Optimistic Pension Glitch Will Be Fixed

Sen. Daniel Biss
Credit ilga.gov

A state senator who's trying to change a mistake in Illinois' pension reform law says he's optimistic it can be corrected.  

But as lawmakers head back to Springfield Tuesday, state Sen. Daniel Biss says he isn't sure yet just when or how that will happen.  
The language in last year's pension law would sharply reduce the pension of thousands of university employees if they don't retire by June 30, and some worry that may push many public university employees to retire early.  

Read more
Pensions
3:38 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

U Of I: Illinois Pension Overhaul Had Costly Mistake

Avijit Ghosh
Credit Univ. of Ill.

University of Illinois officials have worried for months that state pension reforms will push employees to retire early. But they say language inadvertently placed in pension law may provide even stronger
incentive.
 
Avijit Ghosh is a senior adviser to university President Robert Easter. He said at a trustees' meeting Friday that the pension law passed last year would effectively take away a year of pension benefits from about 4,000 University of Illinois employees if they don't retire before July 1. Those pensions would be reduced by up to 35 percent.
 

Read more
Statehouse
5:00 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Pension Savings Estimate Lowered — But Is It A Big Deal?

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A new report (PDF) says Illinois' pension overhaul will save less money than advertised. Some politicians are trying to make hay out of that. But it might not be such a big deal.

The pension vote came with promises of big savings — $160 billion. Then, after it was already law, a new analysis of the bill said, well, maybe we'll save $145 billion.

This latest report puts savings even lower, at $137 billion.

Read more
AP Awards
11:27 am
Fri March 7, 2014

What Do Pensions and Concussions Have in Common?

Associated Press

WUIS stories on pensions, concussions, crop insurance, and tornado recovery are being recognized with four 2013 Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters awards: 

Local Radio:

Best Investigative Report: WIUM-FM, “50% Plus One,” Rich Egger
2nd Place: WUIS-FM, “Judges' Pensions”, Amanda Vinicky

Read more

Pages