The latest test of Illinois' pension guarantee could come from Springfield, but not at the Statehouse.
The city of Springfield is waiting to see whether its public employee unions appeals a court ruling to end vacation-based pension spikes.
City workers now can cash in their unused vacation time a year before they retire. That adds to their final salary and spikes their pensions.
“For existing eligible employees with the city who've not yet retired, they'd enhance their lifetime pension payments by somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million,” Springfield Budget Director Bill McCarty said. McCarty said that number is the total price tag for all city workers hired before 2012.
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State Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, said all cities across Illinois with similar sweeteners need to be watching what happens in Springfield.
“We need the public to demand this honest discussion,” Breen said. “Even when it means people are going to be angry about it.”
McCarty said city leaders in Springfield aren't trying to walk away from promised pensions. Rather, he said, the city is trying to afford its retirement payments.
“The last thing that I think the citizens want us to do is spend money on enhanced pension benefits (that are) over and above what was intended under Illinois' pension law,” McCarty said.
A court ruled this month that Springfield can end the vacation spikes, and McCarty said he hopes to end the practice by the end of the year.
The city's unions are still considering an appeal.