Gov. Bruce Rauner has not given up on trying to get a pension fix through the Illinois legislature this spring. “We would urge the General Assembly to vote this spring to put (a proposed constitutional amendment) on the ballot in November of 2016,” said Kim Fowler, chief legal counsel in the Governor's Office of Management and Budget. “We think it's important … to be able to get pension reforms that would be upheld by the court.”
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Fowler spoke Wednesday to members of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee – five days after the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a 2013 pension law on the grounds that it amounted to a diminishment of benefits.
The governor's idea would clarify that it's “earned” benefits which are protected. State Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) called the distinction “false,” and State Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood) accused the governor's office of pretending the Supreme Court opinion did not exist.
This all comes as the president of the Illinois Senate, John Cullerton (D-Chicago), is floating a revised version of a pension bill which passed the Senate, but which was seen in 2013 as less ambitious than the one that was declared unconstitutional.
Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon says Cullerton and Rauner met for an hour. Via e-mail, Phelon says of Cullerton's 2015 idea: “The consideration model could be used to offer workers a choice regarding salary increases counting toward pensions or keeping a compounded annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) in retirement.”