Illinois taxpayers now owe public sector pensions nearly $113 billion, according to the latest Auditor General report, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree something needs to be done as soon as possible, but disagree on how to tackle the problem. Democratic Representative Michael Zalewski says there are a lot of ideas being thrown at the wall that stick, but fall down. Zalewski, who serves as vice chairperson of the House Personnel and Pension Committee, says he wants dedicated revenue solely for pensions. He also thinks lawmakers need to push the pension payment arc a little bit. Republican Representative Tom Morrison, who also serves on the pension committee as the minority spokesman, says “that’s a fancy way of kicking the can down the road.”
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Morrison says one reform idea would be to offer a defined contribution retirement plan to new hires. Another idea Morrison suggested is to change the state constitution to allow pension benefits for current workers to be amended for future work. Morrison says not acting on the increased unfunded pension liability sends the wrong signal to prospective businesses and residents. The Auditor General’s report indicates the market value funded ratio for all five funds combined went from 42.9 percent in 2014 to 41.9 percent in 2015.