WIUM Tristates Public Radio

State Workers Propose Illinois Pension Plan

Dec 19, 2012

State employee unions say the leading proposals to fix Illinois' public employee pension systems are all fatally flawed, so they proposed their own plan.

Credit Rich Egger

Workers point out any attempt to plug the $96 billion funding shortfall must respect the state Constitution, which says benefits "shall not be diminished."

The proposals backed by Governor Pat Quinn and other political leaders attempt to get around that in order to cut retirement benefits. But AFSCME Legislative Director Joanna Webb-Gauvin said those ideas will ultimately fail in the courts.

"The state is going to spend millions upon millions of dollars defending them, and is most likely going to lose," she said. 

Webb-Gauvin is urging an approach she says is on stronger Constitutional footing.  The union plan calls for employees to contribute 2% more of their salary, and for the state to raise more money by closing $2 billion in so-called tax loopholes.

“The state does not have enough revenue and the truth is it hasn't had enough revenue to operate state government for decades, which is why the state has been using the pension systems as a credit card," Webb-Gauvin said. 

Governor Quinn's reaction was tepid.  He said he will look at anyone's idea, but he says Illinois cannot afford to delay a pension fix.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio