SPRINGFIELD --- The Illinois Senate defeated a comprehensive overhaul of the state's broken pension system today, instead passing a plan to make changes to only the teacher pension system.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, salvaged the teacher bill, but it took him two tries to get the minimum 30 votes needed to send the measure to the House.
Cullerton said he "can't emphasize" how important it is to address the state's $96.8 billion pension debt, the nation's worst-funded retirement system.
He also called for support to put the House headed by Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, "on notice that we're serious."
How serious Cullerton's own Senate is was left an open question after the defeat of a more comprehensive proposal sponsored by Sen. Dan Biss, D-Evanston, that would have scaled back annual pension increases, required current workers to chip in more and saved a projected $150 billion over 30 years. That measure failed by seven votes.
Cullerton's bill that passed would give current public teachers outside Chicago a choice between keeping a compounded 3 percent annual increase in retirement but giving up insurance or accepting insurance and a smaller annual pension increase.
But if teachers chose to keep the 3 percent compounded option, they would not be able to count any future raises toward their retirement checks.
The Cullerton proposal, passed over staunch opposition of teacher unions, would save an estimated $18 billion to $40 billion over 30 years. It would knock off $4.8 billion in liability immediately, he said.
The House is working separately on its own versions, one of which is primarily shaped like the one in the Senate that failed.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun