Pension Reform Proposals Keep Changing

This article from Capitol Fax was sent to us today:

FLUID NEGOTIATIONS Negotiations over pension reform are so fluid that even people involved can’t say for sure what the latest proposal is.

“It changes almost every minute,” bemoaned one top negotiator yesterday. She was responding to a question about a possible change to the annual cost of living adjustment for retirees. They currently get a 3 percent a year boost based on their previous year’s pension.

One of the proposed changes would apply that COLA to only about the first $30,000 of pension income. But it might be $24,000, depending on whom you talk to. But is that provision for retirees who stick with the the current pension plan or for those who are nudged into a new, scaled back pension plan?

“I don’t know,” came the flabbergasted response.

There also seems to be some legislative resistance to Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to force employees to work until they’re 67 to qualify for full retirement benefits.

Actually, to call these negotiations “fluid” might be an insult to fluids everywhere. I’m not sure that anybody knows for sure what exactly is going on right now. Everybody expects to see a bill soon, with unions warning their members that legislation could surface by tomorrow. Nobody knows right now what will be in it or even whether the House and Senate Democrats will have an agreement on a unified plan. The Senate Democrats have a top staffer involved in the talks and he’s writing language, but there’s some question as to whether he’s writing a bill for the Senate Democrats or for the negotiating team.

But none of this really matters if House Speaker Michael Madigan repeats his performance from two years ago by growing weary with negotiations and running his own bill. And even if that happens, Republicans are saying that if a proposal is included which forces suburban and Downstate school districts to pick up all or even part of the employer pension contribution, it’ll be a deal killer.

As you already know, Madigan introduced three amendments on Friday to shift Personal Property Replacement Tax funds to the Teachers’ Retirement Systems. One of those amendments would essentially take every dollar generated by the corporate tax and send it to TRS. The Illinois Municipal League issued a statement yesterday decrying all three amendments: “Diversions of the magnitude proposed within the amendments would be crippling to local governments!”

Meanwhile, the Illinois Federation of Teachers is planning an in-district lobby day for tomorrow. Members are being asked to gather at legislators’ district offices to protest plans to change retirement benefits.

Teachers are mostly still in school, so organizing a Springfield protest this late in the school year was next to impossible. One of the demands the teachers will be making is that no legislation be passed “without the agreement of the unions representing employees.” Teachers unions have reportedly offered to have active members pay a couple more percentage points into the system. Teachers currently pay 9.4 percent of their payroll to the Teachers’ Retirement System. Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed a three percentage point hike.