Among the many challenges under the silver dome of the state Capitol in Springfield is that of overhauling the state's public pension system, which is underfunded by more than $100 billion.
The governor's office is presenting the latest attempt to do this, largely by luring employees into the lower-benefit Tier II and by using various tools to cap pensionable income. Opponents – union leaders and legislative Democrats – say it's an end-run around the state Constitution.
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“Undisputed is that the pension clause does not protect what I will call 'inputs' into the pension formula,” said Dennis Murashko, a deputy general counsel to the governor. “What are those? Wages, hours, other variables that fit into the formula for calculating a pension benefit.”
State Rep. Rob Martwick (D-Norridge) suggests it's a Trojan horse.
“The following things would be prohibited from being subject to collective bargaining: wages, salaries, overtime compensation, vacations, holiday, fringe benefit, hours of work, schedules, overtime hours, compensatory time off, matters of tenure, impact of tenure. It's really a wholesale change to collective bargaining in order to achieve this,” he said.
Union representatives said the proposal is no more constitutional than the last attempt to redo pensions, which the Illinois Supreme Court tossed out as an illegal reduction of benefits.
It has yet to be introduced as a bill, but the ideas were discussed in the House Personnel and Pensions Committee.