Today there were two major developments in the long, hard-fought battle to preserve retirement security for active and retired public employees in Illinois—one very bad, and the other a good step in the right direction.
First, the bad news: SB 1, legislation that would drastically reduce pension benefits for both current employees and retirees, passed out of the House Pension Committee this morning with only one “No” vote. Thank you Rep. Raymond Poe for voting with public employees!
Leaders of the We Are One Illinois union coalition, including PBPA Director Sean Smoot turned out in force to testify against the measure. SB 1 would:
• Change the way that the Cost-of-Living (COLA) on pension benefits is calculated for all current and future retirees—resulting in a loss of tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your retirement years.
• Institute a delay of up to five years to start receiving a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for retirees under age 67
• Raise the retirement age for employees under 45 years old
• Increase employee contributions to the pension system by 2%
The bill is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan who is expected to call it for a floor vote tomorrow. Please call your state representative to urge him or her to VOTE NO on SB 1. You can call toll-free at 888-412-6570
The much better news comes in the Senate. The We Are One Illinois union coalition has consistently stressed that union members are willing to do their part to help solve the state’s pension crisis—and we want to work with legislative leaders to craft a fair and responsible solution.
Recently Senate President John Cullerton reached out to engage in a dialogue with our union coalition. Over the past weeks, the coalition has met with President Cullerton a number of times to seek common ground on a reform plan that could be introduced in the Senate and provide a counter to the draconian bill that is moving forward in the House of Representatives.
While we do not have a final agreement with President Cullerton, considerable progress has been made. After the We Are One Illinois coalition met with him today, President Cullerton issued the following statement:
“Today, I concluded a series of meetings with representatives of teachers, nurses, police officers, and other public employees. This coalition of labor leaders offered a credible and constitutional plan for consideration. Because inaction is not an option, I believe that it is appropriate to begin discussing this plan with the members of my caucus and with the Speaker of the House. It’s important that we advance a credible solution to our pension problems.”
The coalition has agreed not to release any details of the ongoing discussions with President Cullerton at this time. However, we can say that the coalition plan currently under consideration is vastly fairer to employees and retirees than the legislation that is advancing in the House of Representatives.
You can help by calling your state senator and urging him or her to support the We Are One Illinois effort. Again feel free to use the toll-free number 888-412-6570.