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Western UPI Chapter Sends Letter Opposing Cost Shift

Rich Egger

A public employee union in Illinois is criticizing several university presidents for backing a pension reform plan that includes cuts to benefits and a proposal to shift costs to university employees. The University Professionals of Illinois spells out its concerns in a letter sent to those presidents, including WIU’s Jack Thomas.

Read the letter here.

WIU’s Budget Director, Matt Bierman, said the cost shift is only one part of pension reform.

He said that the university presidents' hope is that pension reform, as a whole, may reduce the pressure that pension costs are putting on the overall state budget, including education.

"So the hope (is), the university president's think, by doing this our state appropriation then may continue to level and even grow slightly over the coming years as we solve the pension problem," Bierman said.

Local UPI Chapter President, John Miller, says the  claim made by supporters of the plan that the cuts would be less painful as part of overall pension reform is incorrect.

Radio Interview - Miller

He said the president's have stated they hope the cost shift and cuts to university employees' pensions would eventually cause an increase in state funding.

He said he doesn't share that hope.

"I don't live and I don't think anybody should live in the world of hope from what one general assembly is going to do to the next general assembly or what one governor will do to the next governor is going to do," Miller said, "that unless something is actually written in law there should be no expectation that this is going to alleviate anything."

Bierman said the specific senate bill that contains the cuts and cost shift proposal is unlikely to get passed, but the ideas in it could be included in whatever pension fix the so called conference committee is currently debating.

Miller said he cannot support any pension reform plan that includes the cost shift provision.

He said he does support Senate President John Cullerton's plan, but not if the cost shift provision is added to it.

Scott Stuntz is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.