SPRINGFIELD -- A proposal to eliminate a controversial 13th annual pension payment for local government retirees was approved by a House committee Tuesday but only if current retirees weren't included.
State Rep. Deborah Conroy, an Elmhurst Democrat, won unanimous support to eliminate the payment on the condition she'd change the plan to allow current retirees to keep getting the extra payment.
Conroy said she agreed to that because she was "getting opposition from everywhere, both sides of the aisle" as well as from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, whose members get the extra pension payment.
Also under her proposed changes, workers who receive a pension of less than $40,000 a year will keep getting the extra payment.
IMRF retirees receive a 13th payment of money collected by local governments, in addition to their 12 monthly pension checks. The 13th payment costs taxpayers as much as $41 million per year.
Conroy said she filed the legislation after a Daily Herald investigation bringing the payment to light.
"There are municipalities that are struggling greatly," Conroy said. "This would allow them funds for things that they don't have money for."
A House committee approved Conroy's plan by a 10-0 vote sending it to the full House for now.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers had asked its members to object to the legislation, arguing the 13th payment protects retirees' benefits from rising inflation and saying "is hardly a 'windfall' or a 'bonus.'"
The average extra payment is $343, but some beneficiaries received as much as $7,659. Nearly 9,000 beneficiaries received at least $1,000.
IMRF Executive Director Louis Kosiba pushed back against Conroy's plan.
"It is no more a bonus than a salary increase for those who are working and living longer, or the COLA increases for Social Security recipients," he said.