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updated: 4/9/2014 6:09 PM

DuPage mayors call for pension reform

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  • A group of DuPage County mayors visited the Illinois Capitol Wednesday to ask lawmakers for police officer and firefighter pension changes.

      A group of DuPage County mayors visited the Illinois Capitol Wednesday to ask lawmakers for police officer and firefighter pension changes.
    Associated Press File Photo

 
By Marty Hobe
mhobe@dailyherald.com

SPRINGFIELD -- Mayors from DuPage County met in the state Capitol Wednesday to call for changes to the retirement plans for police officers and firefighters a day after lawmakers approved a pension overhaul for some Chicago city workers.

The DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, led by Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully, called rising costs of local pensions an "unsustainable situation."

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"What we need to do is to make sure the cost is affordable to taxpayers because if it's too expensive to be sustained, then police and fire employees could lose their benefits entirely," Tully said.

Lisle Mayor Joe Broda said he thinks lowering retirees' yearly cost-of-living benefit hike is the way to go. Their annual 3 percent hike compounds over time, leading to increased costs.

"If that was eliminated, the pensions would not be escalating because the compounding factor increases the pension," Broda said. "I know for a fact as retirees grow older they need less."

But union leaders argue the yearly increase helps fight against inflation.

Pat Devaney, President of the Associated Firefighters of Illinois, said these benefits aren't the problem, and the state should rethink its strategy.

"I find it interesting that they want to reform the pensions by cutting a promised benefit," Devaney said.

The We Are One Illinois coalition of union leaders has been fighting pension legislation, and recently it filed a lawsuit against the pension reform plan Gov. Quinn signed last winter.

"Instead, leading politicians and their followers chose to violate their oaths of office, trample on the Illinois Constitution, and willfully ignore the plain letter of the law," the group said on its website. "In abandoning their constitutional duties, they've voted to slash the retirement benefits of senior citizens and working families by one-third or more."

For the mayors, getting changes could be tough. Cuts to workers' pensions are controversial, and giving smaller retirement benefits to respected police officers and firefighters could be an even tougher sell for lawmakers.

Tully said mayors hope for speedy legislation for statewide pension reform like the Chicago plan, which was approved by the House and Senate over the course of one day Tuesday.

However, Broda doesn't think that's going to happen.

"I think something's going to happen but I don't think it's going to happen until after the November election," Broda said. "I hope I'm 100 percent wrong."

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