The governor has signed into law a measure that closes loopholes in the state’s pension system. The bill stops pension abuses that included double-dipping and substitute teaching for a day then getting a lifetime pension. The changes came about after a news investigation revealed that two Illinois Federation of Teachers lobbyists became eligible to draw from the teachers’ retirement fund after having substitute taught for just one day in schools in Springfield.
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The loophole allowed them to count all of their years as union employees toward a state teacher pension. House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), who sponsored the bill, says while it’s a step in the right direction more must be done. “I wouldn’t say we can claim victory on pension reform. We’ve got a lot to do on the financial side of it,” Cross said. He says pension systems for state retirees are under-funded and unstable. “Part of it is that the state didn’t make payments but part of it is we gave benefits that we never charged for, people are growing older, the market has not done all that well and if we’re not careful we may not have a system down the road,” he said. Cross says next year’s budget calls for $7.5 billion out of a $33 billion budget to be spent on pension related costs. Opponents say the reforms are unconstitutional, but supporters argue that a provision in the state Constitution prevents public finds for being used for something that is not for the public good.