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Illinois Unions vs CEOs on Pension Reform

Rich Egger

It's class warfare, on the policy front.

A letter from the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago shames Illinois lawmakers for not doing anything to address the state’s growing pension debt.

President Ty Fahner said unless there is a major overhaul, the systems will collapse under their own weight.

But the measures Fahner's calling for – such as eliminating all cost-of-living increases for retirement benefits -- are too drastic for unions such as AFSCME.  Spokesman Anders Lindall said 80% of Illinois public employees get no social security; their pension is their only retirement savings. 

Lindall said Fahner's business group is just trying to protect its slice of the state budget: corporate tax breaks.

"Millionaire executives who have huge compensation and huge golden parachute pensions of their own … and they’ve spent the last two years pushing to  slash the modest pensions of public employees and retirees,” Lindall said.

Fahner responded, “This is not a bunch of business people in Chicago. This is a bunch of people who will do fine without pension reform, but the rest of the state will not.”

State legislators are expected to debate the pension matter in January.  Governor Pat Quinn said he and legislative leaders are "close" to a deal that could be passed in early 2013.

But House Republican Leader Tom Cross was less sure.  Cross said he is committed to trying to make something happen but he can't say if it will. 

Illinois owes more than $90 billion to its pension systems, mostly because over the years legislators didn't contribute the employer's share.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio

Rich is TSPR's News Director.