Illinois lawmakers postponed action on a bill that would have forced teachers and state employees to pay as much as three times more for their retirement benefits.
Following opposition from public workers and their unions, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, House Republican leader Tom Cross and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago announced Monday they would meet in the next three months with the aim of bringing the bill back during the legislative session that begins in late October.
The measure sent to the full House last week was designed to reduce the state’s annual retirement costs and cut its unfunded pension liability of at least $80 billion by creating a three-tiered plan. Employees would be able to stay in the current program at a higher cost, take a lesser benefit at a lower cost or join a self-managed plan similar to a 401(k) plan.
A coalition of unions attacked the measure, saying it undermines working families and violates Illinois constitutional protections of pension benefits.
Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, said the problem isn’t the average annual $32,000 pension that employees receive. It’s lawmakers’ failure to fund the system adequately, he said last week, calling the proposed changes “unreasonable and unconstitutional.”
Lawmakers are trying to complete their budget session before Tuesday’s midnight deadline. The pension bill was part of the effort to reduce the state’s overall costs. It wasn’t brought to a vote in the House.
Public workers in Colorado, South Dakota and Minnesota are suing their states, which are among 18 that want to increase employee contributions, raise the retirement age or curb cost-of-living increases.