Pensions - WUIS Special Coverage

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.  

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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.  

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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.

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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.  

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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.
 

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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.

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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

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Statehouse
6:04 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Fifth Lawsuit Filed Against Illinois Pension Law

An Illinois House voting board in December shows the results for what would become a pension overhaul law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A fifth lawsuit has been filed by state employees challenging Illinois' new pension law.  
The lawsuit from current and former employees at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Parkland Community College was filed in Champaign County Circuit Court Thursday.  

It says the legislation passed by the General Assembly in December violates several provisions of the state constitution, which says retirement benefits should not be diminished or impaired and private property should not be ``taken or damaged for public use.''  

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Statehouse
6:15 am
Thu March 6, 2014

GOP Governor Candidates Argue Pensions

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Republican candidates for Illinois governor are arguing about pension reform and the state's finances in the second-to-last debate ahead of the March 18 primary.  

State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, businessman Bruce Rauner  and Treasurer Dan Rutherford attended the debate Wednesday hosted by WGN-TV and the Chicago Tribune.  

Brady is the only one who supported a recent pension overhaul that cuts benefits for state workers and retirees. Dillard voted against it, which has been the reason that several unions have endorsed him.  

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Regional
11:30 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Springfield Pension Problem Worst in State According to Think-Tank

Credit illinoispolicy.org

A conservative think tank recommends the City of Springfield switch its employee pension system to a 401K style plan rather than a defined benefit.

"First and foremost you need to make sure the data is pure." -- Budget Director William McCarty

The Illinois Policy Institute presented aldermen data that indicate the city of Springfield has the worst funded pension system among larger cities in the state.

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Statehouse
5:49 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Effort To Consolidate Pension Lawsuits

Efforts are underway to consolidate four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law.  

Lawyers representing the respective groups of state retirees who filed class-action suits have asked the Supreme Court to allow them to present their cases as one.  

The groups share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished.  

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Statehouse
12:05 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Arizona Pension Case Could Chart Course for Illinois

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A court case decided in Arizona Thursday could have implications for Illinois' ongoing legal battle over pensions. The decision (pdf), by the Arizona Supreme Court, struck down an attempt to reduce Arizona officials' retirement benefits.

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Statehouse
6:46 am
Fri February 7, 2014

How Large Is Illinois' Pension Debt? Depends On Who You Ask

Credit MT_Image/Flickr

The controversial new law that overhauls pensions for Illinois public workers is now facing legal challenges.

But even before it was passed, experts had been fighting over exactly how big the state’s pension crisis really is. The answer to that math problem could have a big impact on your wallet.

When pundits and politicians and reporters talk about Illinois’ monster pension problem...there’s this number that keeps coming up.

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Pensions
11:48 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Unions Sue Over Pension Law

Credit wuis

Illinois labor unions have filed a lawsuit seeking a new plan to reduce the state's $100 billion pension shortfall declared unconstitutional.  

The We Are One Illinois Coalition of public employee unions filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Sangamon County Circuit court.  
The long-anticipated legal challenge comes weeks after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law and ahead of his annual State of the State address.  

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Statehouse
5:57 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Democrat Cullerton Wants To Meet With GOP Nominee For Governor

Sen. John Cullerton
Credit ilga.gov

The President of the Illinois State Senate - John Cullerton - says he wants to meet with the eventual Republican nominee for governor about the state’s finances.  It comes as the state’s income and corporate tax rates are scheduled to go down in a year.

The governor’s office predicts the tax decrease will create a nearly $2 billion hole in the next budget. Cullerton - a Chicago Democrat - says he’d like to hear from the Republican nominee about the state’s budget.

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Higher Education
5:41 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

U Of I To Consider Pension Cut Offsets

Robert Easter
Credit U of I

University of Illinois President Robert Easter and other administrators will consider ways to help university employees make up for some of the money they will lose when state pension reforms begin June 1.  

University trustees on Thursday directed Easter to assess the changes coming to the state pension system and options for preserving benefits that will be lost. The president is expected to make recommendations to the trustees before June. The board of trustees oversees the university's three campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.  

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New IGPA Report
7:15 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Budget Gap To Increase Despite Pension Overhaul

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' pension overhaul is tied up in a court challenge.  But even if it remains law, cuts to state employees' and public school teachers' retirement benefits will not solve the state's budget problem.  That's the forecast from a report issued today by the University of Illinois' Institute for Government and Public Affairs. Amanda Vinicky spoke with the report's principle author, economist Richard Dye.

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Statehouse
7:23 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Quinn Signs Another Pension Measure

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit wikimedia

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a pension-reform measure for the Chicago Park District.  

The legislation Quinn signed Tuesday is designed to deal with a $971 million deficit in the district's pension program. When lawmakers approved it in November, experts hailed it as example of compromise for what was then an elusive solution to the five state pension systems' $100 billion hole.  

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Pensions
7:20 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Don't Bank On Pension Savings Just Yet

House Speaker Michael Madigan sponsored the pension overhaul, which state employees' and teachers' unions say unfairly cuts their benefits.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

With the new year comes the annual process of crafting a new state budget.  Money will be tight, despite a pension law that's supposed to save $160 billion dollars over the next 30 years.

Legislators who voted to cut state employees' and teachers' retirement benefits say they had no choice. Nearly a fifth of the state budget was going into Illinois' pension systems. Meaning there was less money to spend elsewhere. The pension law is supposed to ease that so-called "squeeze."

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State Week
1:26 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Listen To State Week - January 3, 2014

This week's topics include the state's system for accepting Concealed-Carry applications, the many lawsuits filed against the recent law changing the state's pension system, and a look back at some top stories from 2013.

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Statehouse
2:10 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

State Retirees Sue Over Pension Law

A group of retired state employees has filed a lawsuit challenging a new Illinois plan to eliminate the state's $100 billion public pension shortfall.  

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Statehouse
10:55 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Justices Get Campaign Money From Groups Involved In Pension Battle

Credit flickr/RandyvonLiski

A published report says groups with ties to the pension-reform law adopted last month have contributed close to $3 million to Illinois Supreme Court justices who might decide its fate.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/1aqJQ5n ) that six of seven justices have taken money in the past 13 years from labor unions, business groups and a political committee controlled by Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.  
Retired teachers have sued to stop the pension-reform plan that cuts retiree benefits to reduce a $100 billion debt.  

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pension
6:39 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Illinois Pensions Don't Sell Assets In 2013

Credit SRS

Officials say sufficient state funding the last two years means key state-employee pension funds didn't have to sell assets to meet payments.  
 The State Retirement Systems covers pensions for ex-state employees, judges and lawmakers. A report Thursday by Auditor General William Holland says SRS withdrew $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year _ down from nearly $250 million the year before.  
 William Atwood heads the Illinois State Board of Investment, which manages the SRS portfolios.  
 He says the large withdrawal in 2012 was because of state underfunding in 2011.  

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Pensions
6:00 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Preparing To Implement Pension Overhaul — And Not To

Credit Arthur Public Library via IMLS DCC (creative commons)

Illinois’ biggest and most indebted pension system is beginning to implement changes tied to the pension overhaul passed this month. But officials are also making plans in case the new law is struck down.

The Teachers Retirement System is by far the biggest of Illinois’ five pension systems, with well over 360,000 members. TRS is also the biggest factor in the pension funding problem, accounting for more than half of the combined $100 billion shortfall.

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State Week
6:15 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Listen To State Week - December 13, 2013

This week, among the topics of discussion: corporate tax incentives, interest on state bonds, and more on state pensions.

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