Illinois Lawmakers at Odds with Madigan over Proposed Pension Shift

A plan to shift the cost of teacher pensions from the state to local school districts became the most hotly debated topic in Springfield on Tuesday.

Updated: 9 a.m., May 31

Wednesday night Michael Madigan dropped the proposal to shift the costs to school districts.


With the clock ticking on the current legislative session in Springfield, Illinois lawmakers are scrambling to find a solution to the state's massive shortfall in the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS).

The most hotly debated topic in the Illinois General Assembly on Tuesday was a plan to gradually shift pension liabilities from the state to local school districts, universities and colleges. The proposal is part of Senate Bill 1673, a pension bill backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

An Illinois House committee voted 6-3 to send the proposal to the House before Thursday's adjournment deadline, NBC Chicago reports.

In a House floor speech that has since gone viral, State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) slammed Madigan for the last-minute vote. 

"Total power in one person's hand -- not the American way!" Bost screamed before throwing a stack of papers into the air. "...These damn bills that come out here all the damn time, come out here at the last second. I've got to figure out how to vote for my people! You should be ashamed of yourselves! I'm sick of it!"

House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego also criticized Madigan and the proposed shift, calling it a "poison pill" to kill pension legislation. The state should take responsibility for the pension shortfall, Cross said, not teachers, school districts and taxpayers.

"Maybe you, Mr. Speaker, need to take responsibility for your actions," Cross said. "For the last 40 years you have had your fingerprints on the mess we have today."

Madigan defended his position after Cross spoke on the House floor, according to an NBC Chicago report.

"There is a concept in America that we all try to live under, which is called responsibility," Madigan said of the proposed pension shift.

Illinois currently has an $83 billion unfunded pension liability—$44 billion of which is from the TRS. The state has to come up with $5.1 billion for pensions next year, the Associated Press reports.

Officials at may have been more prepared to handle the costs than other districts. 

At District 203, its financial projection for the 2012-13 budget had assumed it would have to pay this, said District 203 Chief Financial Officer Dave Zager. Actually, Zager said the 1 percent increase per year is less than he put in the projection. He anticipated a 2 percent increase per year until reaching full "Normal Cost."

"So, the 1 percent will mean we have to absorb the cost at a lesser rate (though ultimately, we have to absorb the whole thing) – taking twice as long to get to full Normal Cost," Zager said in an e-mail Wednesday. "It will not mean a tax increase, we cannot increase taxes beyond that authorized by the Tax Cap without a referendum.  Eventually, it could mean a budget cut – but a lot will depend on contract negotiations."

The current legislative session ends Thursday, May 31.

Related stories:

Teachers Rally in Plainfield to Oppose Pension Reforms

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David Greeley May 30, 2012 at 10:47 PM
All Government employees should save for there own retirement. Hell i can't save for my own retirement. Why should i pay for Government employees to retire. This non sense Better stop soon.


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