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updated: 8/7/2012 8:00 AM

Northbrook state rep files new state pension plans

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  • Elaine Nekritz

      Elaine Nekritz

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, has filed two new state pension plans that would, among other things, shift retirement costs from the state to local schools more slowly than originally proposed.

The proposals would also cut annual pension benefit increases for retirees as other plans have.

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She said Monday that the plans are intended to ramp up talks about how to tackle Illinois' $83 billion in pension debt as her plans can't be voted on by the full House when they convene Aug. 17.

The plans have to clear other hurdles first that can't be done in one day. One would cut benefits for state workers, lawmakers, teachers and university employees. The other would just target teachers and university workers, meant as a "companion" plan for one already approved by the Illinois Senate that covers lawmakers and state workers.

"When something gets put out there in writing, it engenders a lot more discussion," Nekritz said.

The former cost-shift plan would require school districts to pay an additional 1 percent of their payroll costs toward teachers' pensions every year until they picked up the full share.

The new Nekritz plans would slow that down to a half percent a year, an approach Gov. Pat Quinn has advocated for.

Quinn has called lawmakers to Springfield Aug. 17 to debate pension reform, but without an agreement in place before the House and Senate convene, it's possible there will be little -- if any -- action.

Republicans haven't wavered on their opposition to the cost-shift plan, so the prospect for negotiations on that point are limited.

House Speaker Michael Madigan has told union leaders he might call for a vote on the Senate plan that would cut pension benefits for state workers and lawmakers, leaving teachers and university workers alone for now.

But wide consensus on that idea might be tough to reach, too, because teachers make up a huge part of the state's pension obligation, and, therefore, changes to their plans would bring some of the highest savings to the state.

Quinn this weekend continued to try to convince lawmakers to make changes for everyone at once, saying the state's retirement costs for teachers will exceed how much Illinois spends on the operation of local schools by 2016.

"Illinois cannot continue down this path at the expense of our children," Quinn said in a statement.

Quinn had hoped his call for lawmakers to return to Springfield would help spark discussions that would lead to a deal over pensions. But, so far, there's been no public indication of a nearing agreement.

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