Illinois Lawmakers Push through Pension Reform

March 25, 2010 ( - The Illinois Legislature has passed a sweeping pension reform package that restricts retirement benefits for future government workers and teachers and lifts a $1.2 billion-plus pension burden from Chicago's cash-strapped schools.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that under the measure, future employees in 13 retirement systems could not retire with full benefits until 67. Future employees’ pensions would be based on an eight-year average of pay rather than four years.      

The measure also caps at $106,800 the amount of salary on which a pension can be based; prevents individuals from drawing pensions from more than one public retirement system; and limits post-retirement cost-of-living increases, according to the news report.      

The legislation affects 13 pension systems, including those representing state workers, teachers, Chicago city and park district employees, Cook County workers, legislators and judges. Police and firefighters are exempt from the changes.      

The package also gives Chicago’s public schools a windfall to address what could be a $1 billion deficit next school year by reducing the amount that must be contributed toward teacher pensions by $1.23 billion over three years. The measure also extends by 14 years the period when the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund must be 90% funded. It is now 74% funded.      

The proposal pushed by Governor Quinn and sponsored by Speaker Michael Madigan (see Illinois Lawmaker Proposes Pension Changes) sped through the House 92-17, with seven members voting present. The Senate then quickly passed it 48-6, with three senators voting present.