Representative explains vote on pension bill

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Recently, the General Assembly met in special session to address legislation regarding the state pension systems. On Dec. 10, the unfunded pension liability in Illinois exceeded $100 billion. From last year to this year, our required pension payment increased by $936 million.

We now spend more than 20 percent of general revenue – more than $6 billion a year, or nearly as much as we spend on all K-12 education across the state – on the pension payment.

School funding was reduced to 89 percent of the formula level. State prisons, mental health hospitals, and developmental disability centers were closed. The Medicaid system was targeted for $2.7 billion in reforms. More than $6 billion in unpaid bills have piled up.

If you’re currently receiving a pension check, the bill won’t reduce it by one penny. You’ll still get an increase every year. We simply put a cap on the amount of an increase you get in a single year.

The bill offers the most protection to those with modest pensions and those with the most years of service. Pensions up to $30,000 may see no change at all – and that cap will increase every year along with inflation. The bill also puts a salary cap on pensions, only affecting those who make more than $109,000 a year.

Current employees will keep an additional 1 percent of their paycheck now, as their required contribution has been lowered. The bill also strengthens the requirement that ensures that the state makes its pension payment every year.

With changes made only to future payments, supplemental state payments, improved guarantees, and a reduced employee contribution, I believe this bill is constitutional and reasonable.

We didn’t get into this problem overnight, and it won’t be solved with a single bill. Even when we disagree, I’ll always explain my vote as clearly and openly as I can.

Note to readers: Tom Demmer, a Republican, represents the 90th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.

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