From Day One (Jan 11),  the focus of the 100th Illinois General Assembly has been on a package of legislation intended to end the state budget crisis.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Republican Leader Christine Radogno back the package. In its current form, much of what the leaders call a “grand bargain” looks like a “raw deal” for students, school districts and education employees.

Included are proposals to “freeze” local property taxes, reduce physical education and take driver’s education out of schools (SB13).

Also included is a proposal (SB 11), that forces active employees to either choose one of 2 options, each of which represents a diminishment of their pension benefit, or have future salary increases exempt from their pension calculation.

Under the bill, an employee who agrees to give up the compounded 3 percent annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase in his or her pension can opt to:

1) Receive a payment equal to 10 percent of the employee’s previous pension contributions, or;

2) Accept a 10 percent reduction in the employee’s future pension contributions, along with a promise that all future salary increases will be pensionable.

THE CATCH: If the employee chooses not to give up the COLA, any future salary increases would be excluded from his or her pension calculation.

As each option represents a diminishment of the employee’s pension benefit, IEA believes the proposal is unconstitutional and we STRONGLY OPPOSE.

The bills referenced above, and some others in the package, reflect Gov. Rauner’s anti-working families “Turnaround Agenda.”

IEA President Cinda Klickna, who testified against the tax freeze to a Senate committee earlier in the week, blasted the governor’s attempt to use the budget impasse to pass bills unrelated to the budget.

“A property tax freeze wouldn’t do a thing for the state budget, but it ties the hands of local school boards that are fighting to provide a quality education to children despite inadequate state support. The mandate changes being proposed will have zero impact on the budget but will hurt students by taking away physical education and reducing access to affordable driver’s education.”

There are other, better, proposals in the package, but they currently are linked to more negative proposals. These other proposals include:

SB 2  (Lightford, D-Maywood) would increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9 per hour beginning on Jul. 1, 2017, and 50 cents each year thereafter until it reaches $11.

SB 6  (Cullerton, J., D-Chicago) is a supplemental appropriation to fund higher education, human services, group health insurance and state operations for the remainder of this fiscal year.

SB 9  (Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields) is a revenue bill designed to generate funds from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, increasing the state income tax to just under 5 percent, raising the corporate income tax from 5.25 to 7 percent, addressing corporate loopholes and increasing or reinstating certain tax credits.

More details on the actions of the 100th General Assembly can be found in the IEA Government Relations Legislative Update.

The House and Senate return to the Statehouse on February 7. Bookmark the IEA website, the IEA Facebook page and the IEA Twitter page for breaking news.

5 COMMENTS

  1. What makes them think this pension “reform” proposal is any more constitutional than SB1?

    • The theory being used is called “consideration”. It has been used in the past to make changes to pension benefits by offering an enhancement of some sort in exchange for an adjustment of the benefit.

      In instances where this has been implemented, the employee was offered an actual choice. For example, an employee could receive a slightly improved benefit in exchange for agreeing to pay more toward the pension. In this case however, all the choices diminish the benefit; the opportunity to retain the current pension benefit is not an option. Again, IEA and other members of the labor coalition believe this proposal is unconstitutional and are opposed.

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