Unions OK with paying more toward retirement
As public pension funding comes to a head in Springfield, a union coalition released a report about what its members could agree to when it comes to cutting benefits.
SPRINGFIELD — A union report released Wednesday says its member teachers and Illinois workers would be willing to pay up to 2 percent more of their salaries toward retirement in order to help ease the state's quickly growing pension costs.
"It's gonna hurt," said Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna. "But that is genuine shared sacrifice."
But the union officials sharply rebuked other proposals to reduce retirees' annual benefit increases — a rejection of one of lawmakers' top targets that casts doubt whether workers and officials could ever compromise on a proposal.
Lawmakers are scheduled to head back to Springfield Jan. 2 to try to find a way to reduce the state's pension costs. As those expenses rise sharply every year, Illinois has less to spend on other programs.
Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday didn't reject the union proposal, talking to reporters at an event before a trip to Germany.
"Well, we always want to look at everything," he said.
Wednesday's report comes from a coalition of Illinois unions representing teachers, state workers and others called We Are One Illinois. It says that retirees' yearly cost-of-living pension increases are critical to protect them against inflation and the rising costs of everything from gasoline to food.
The unions propose collecting $2 billion more in taxes from Illinois companies by closing so-called loopholes. They argue that all proposed plans to cut benefits run afoul of the Illinois Constitution, so the state needs to find a way to bring in more money to solve its pensions problem.
"You cannot solve this problem with less money, period," said Illinois Federation of Teachers political director Toby Trimmer.
But lawmakers and Quinn might not agree with the unions.
Those tax loopholes have been debated in Springfield for years without winning approval, going back at least to the administration of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Officials looking to save money see controlling the annual pension raises as critical to getting the state out of its $97 billion pension hole.
Just this week, Democratic state reps. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook and Daniel Biss of Evanston have been touting a new pension overhaul proposal that limits cost-of-living increases and say they might be able to find bipartisan support.
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