Illinois governor pledges public pension reform in 2012

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday said the state “must have … public pension reform in the coming year.”

“We took the first step on pension reform in 2010 when we enacted landmark changes that will save taxpayers billions of dollars. But there's much more to do,” Mr. Quinn said in his State of the State address in Springfield, according to prepared remarks.

“Fixing the pension problem will not be easy, but we have no choice. We must do it together in a way that is meaningful, constitutional and fair to the employees who have faithfully contributed to the system. That's why I've assembled a pension working group to propose a solution that can be enacted this year. I will have more to say about these serious matters during my budget address three weeks from today.”

Mr. Quinn provided no specifics.

The pension working group “is exploring meaningful and constitutional reforms to the state pension system,” Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Mr. Quinn, said in an e-mail. The 2010 reforms enacted will save taxpayers “over $200 billion over the next 35 years; however, more reforms are needed to ensure the long-term stability of the system for employers who have faithfully contributed to the system,” Ms. Kraft wrote.

The five state retirement systems affected are the $33.5 billion Illinois Teachers' Retirement System, Springfield; $13 billion Illinois State Universities Retirement System, Champaign; and the three systems whose $10.3 billion in combined assets are overseen by the Chicago-based Illinois State Board of Investment — Illinois State Employees' Retirement System, Illinois Judges' Retirement System, and Illinois General Assembly Retirement System, all based in Springfield.

Reforms would also affect the $8.9 billion Chicago Public School Teachers' Pension & Retirement Fund.

A pension reform bill that passed the state Senate last March but didn't come to a vote in the Illinois House was resent to the House Rules Committee on Dec. 31, according to a General Assembly statement. The bill offered public plan participants a choice to either keep their current defined benefit plan and pay more, accept reduced benefits or move to a defined contribution plan.