State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, says he opposes legislation that aims to eliminate the state’s pension debt over 30 years.
Other lawmakers aren’t sure how they will vote.
Today, the Legislature will have a 1-day session to consider the bill.
Bivins said he will vote against the bill, because he believes it violates the state constitution, which bans the state from diminishing employees’ pension benefits.
“It’s not a pro-union or an anti-union vote; it’s a constitutional vote,” Bivins said Monday. “The constitutional language is so plain to me.”
Gov. Pat Quinn and the Legislature’s Republican and Democratic leaders are backing the bill.
The package would gradually raise the retirement age for workers who are 45 and younger and set a cap on the part of high-wage earners’ salaries that is used to calculate pension benefits. The measure would also reduce automatic increases in pension payments.
Public worker unions oppose the legislation and have threatened to take the issue to court if the bill passes.
In an interview, Bivins said he feared a court ruling in the unions’ favor would undercut the state’s leverage in negotiations. That could likely result in higher taxes, he said.
Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said he wanted to read the legislation before taking a position. Earlier this year, Demmer voted for an aggressive version of pension reform proposed by state House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
About the same time, Bivins, citing the constitutional argument, voted against a package, pushed by Senate Democratic leader John Cullerton, that cut far less pension debt.
Demmer said he was open-minded about the pending legislation.
“There’s a couple of hundred pages I need to read between now and tomorrow,” he said.
If the Legislature approves the bill, he said, the state must “hold tight to a path” and not water it down.
Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who represents Whiteside County, also said he would need to read the bill before deciding how to vote.
“It will be a difficult decision. It’s the sort of decision between promises made and promises broken,” he said. “It’s an attempt to save the system. We have to do something, but I’m not sure if this is it.”
Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, didn’t return a call for comment Monday.
In 2012, more than half of Smiddy’s campaign contributions came from public sector unions. Such donations made up 12.5 percent of Jacobs’ campaign funds.
Demmer got no contributions from unions in 2012. In 2008, Bivins received 7.8 percent of his donations from public sector unions. He had no opponent in 2012.