Business group tells Illinois governor: Reform 'unfixable' state pension system

Illinois Governor Patt Quinn
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

The Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago, a group of senior business and professional leaders who seek to address important economic and social issues, is calling on Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to enact four pension reforms to fix the pensions plans in the state with the lowest funded status in the country.

The proposed reforms consist of eliminating all cost-of-living increases, instituting a benefit cap, increasing the retirement age to 67 and shifting annual costs to local employers over a span of 12 years or more.

In separate letters to members and Mr. Quinn, club executives said the pension system is “unfixable” under current circumstances and said it is “a problem of political courage.” The letter to members said it is no longer possible to preserve state pension benefits and proposed steps to minimize long-term damage.

In the letter to the governor, Tyrone Fahner, president of the Civic Committee and Commercial Club, said the club will dismiss and oppose any proposals that do not cut to the core of the pension problem.

Abdon M. Pallasch, assistant state budget director, said in an e-mail that most of the proposed reforms have been adopted for new state hires or have been proposed by Mr. Quinn for current employees.

“We appreciate the Civic Committee helping us sound the alarm about the urgency of passing a comprehensive pension reform package, which Gov. Quinn has been fighting for since February,” Mr. Pallasch said. “We hope the committee will help make the case to every member of the state Legislature and to state pension holders that solving the pension problem is key to assuring that benefits will be there when the stakeholders retire.”

The state's five pension funds have an estimated $85 billion in unfunded liabilities.