Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa said he'd be inclined to support a plan that would offer teachers and state workers an incentive in exchange for taking cuts to their pension benefits.
The Republican candidate for governor, though, said he isn't necessarily backing a proposal championed by Illinois Senate Democrats last year.
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The plan from Senate President John Cullerton would have let the public employees choose between having their full retirement benefits with reduced health care support or smaller pension benefits with guaranteed health care help.
Cullerton's idea was never approved, with lawmakers instead cutting pension benefits without giving workers a choice in the matter. Rutherford has called the new law unconstitutional, pointing to an Illinois Constitution that says benefits can't be "diminished or impaired."
"I would be more inclined to that direction" Rutherford said of the choice concept. "I want to be careful on the specific bill because I would really want to drill down and respond specifically."
"But the concept, yes," he said.
Rutherford met with the Daily Herald editorial board Friday on a week that also saw the first statewide debate between him and the other GOP governor candidates, state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale and Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner. The primary election is March 18.
In the ongoing debate over which Republican would have the best shot to beat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in November, Rutherford pointed to his work in diverse communities, calling himself a "reasonable Republican."
"There is a lot of diversity here," he said.
And he points to his 2010 win to be treasurer, arguing he's the only one of the four candidates to win a statewide election.