The Labor Tribune

Labor News From Our Region

Illinois Senate OKs pension bill opposed by AFL-CIO

By CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondent

Springfield, IL – While passing a flood of budget-related legislation to force the House and the governor to take positions on a budget, the Illinois Senate also passed a pensions bill that is strongly opposed by both the Illinois AFL-CIO and AFSCME.

The AFL-CIO called Senate Bill 16 “another unconstitutional attempt to reduce pension benefits for Illinois’ public workers.” Much of the bill consists of provisions requested by Governor Bruce Rauner.

The measures are now assigned to the House Pensions Committee as House Bill 427.

Among other giveaways, it would force participants in five public pension plans to make a lose-lose choice between either giving up the right to count future raises toward their pensions while keeping their COLA current with inflation, or giving up COLA adjustments while counting future raises as pensionable salary.

“Regardless of the option employees choose, they would receive a much smaller pension benefit during the course of their retirement compared to the benefit they were promised,” AFSCME Local 31 reported.

IT’S A TRICK

The bill would let some employees choose to make their pensions hybrids with features of both defined benefit plans – traditional pensions – and defined contribution plans, like 401K plans. The bill would leave those hybrid pensions unprotected from potential tinkering by the government that could reduce benefits unilaterally.

“The trick being played on eligible members – of having them to elect to participate in the plan with the real possibility of having these benefits pulled from underneath them with no ability to negotiate that impact – is not acceptable and reveals the real intention of the governor’s proposal,” the AFL-CIO said.

The bill was sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton in his continuing effort to find compromises between Rauner and the Democrats. It was passed May 17 on a vote of 31-21, with 16 Republicans and 15 Democrats supporting it, and six Republicans and 15 Democrats opposed. Seven senators did not vote – all Democrats, including two from the Metro-East, Bill Haine of Alton and James Clayborne of East St. Louis.

Area Senators Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Sam McCann (R-Plainview), Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) and Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) all voted against it, while Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) voted for it.

AFSCME Local 31, which represents the entire state, called on Labor supporters to call its hotline at (888) 912-5959 to urge their House representatives to oppose House Bill 427 or any others that would cut pensions.

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