Once lawmakers saw how little money is available after the pension bite, they’re awakening to the reality of the crisis. That’s how House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) sizes up his chamber’s progress on pension legislation. “I think the beginning of the budget process, where you’re having some folks see what money’s available to the five (appropriations) committees, is starting to be an eye-opener for legislators, if you’re having an honest conversation,” Cross said after the House voted Thursday to restrict cost-of-living adjustments to the first $25,000 of pension income.
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While the Senate turned back what was billed as a comprehensive pension reform bill earlier in the week, Cross said he hoped the bipartisan vote Thursday would motivate senators. That COLA is not trifling, says State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), the House’s point person on pensions. “The (pension) systems have indicated that this single benefit is about 20 percent of the overall cost of the benefit, so if we are to bring down the trajectory on which our increases in the pension payment are headed, this is the place that we have to look.”
The House action follows pension bills which increase the retirement age and cap pensionable salary. The Senate adjourned Thursday for the two-week Easter break, while the House did so Friday.