House votes to make pension hikes more difficult
House Speaker Michael Madigan's proposal would require both the House and Senate to approve future pension perks by three-fifths votes.
File photo by JOHN STARKS | Staff Photographer
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House OK'd Speaker Michael Madigan's "tough medicine" on pension sweeteners Wednesday, backing the Chicago Democrat's plan to make it more difficult to increase retirement benefits for state workers and teachers.
The proposal would require both the House and Senate to approve future pension perks by three-fifths votes. If the Senate approves the idea, voters would be asked in the November election whether they want to amend the Illinois Constitution.
Such a change would mean pension enhancements would need 71 votes in the House instead of 60, for example. Similar majorities would be necessary in the Senate and in some cases at the local level, such as school boards. A bill the governor vetoes could be overturned only with a higher standard: a two-thirds vote.
Madigan's idea was approved 113-0, reminiscent of the lopsided margins traditionally associated with the popular tallies he's targeting.
"There's a lot of tough medicine in this resolution," Madigan said.
But Madigan said a three-fifths requirement would give impetus to opponents who now might give in, seeing they're outnumbered.
The state's largest employee union opposes the plan, saying minorities on local boards, for example, could strike down negotiated employee-contract agreements.
Rep. Dave Winters, a Shirland Republican, noted that two pension enhancements since 2005 — one became law and benefitted Chicago police captains — got 62 or fewer votes. A three-fifths requirement would have killed them.
Several lawmakers noted the measure is not a single solution to an $80 billion funding gap in the state's five pension programs, but makes sense.
"It's a good signal to the people that the state is finally managing, it's finally leading," said Rep. Dwight Kay, a Republican from Glen Carbon, "and we're going to take this step and many more."
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