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updated: 5/16/2014 6:28 AM

U of I president asks potential retirees back

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Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN -- With the state's new pension law on hold, University of Illinois President Bob Easter on Thursday urged employees planning to retire this spring to reconsider.

Easter sent an email to employees saying the university will consider rehiring those who tendered their resignations because they feared benefit cuts if they stayed on the job past June 30, the News-Gazette in Champaign reported.

The language in last year's pension law could take a year of benefits away from up to about 4,000 employees if they don't retire by June 30.

A Sangamon County judge on Wednesday postponed implementation of the new pension law until the courts rule on its constitutionality. It had been set to take effect June 1.

In the email, Easter said the judge's ruling "preserves the current pension system as we know it."

"I hope that faculty and staff who were weighing retirement will now decide to stay on and share their talents to benefit the university, our students and our state," he wrote.

Illinois' five public retirement systems had a $100 billion unfunded liability when the legislature passed the pension law in December. It would save an estimated $145 billion, largely by cutting benefits for employees and retirees. The language in the bill limited how much public university employees who didn't retire would lose. But it made the effective date June 30, 2013, rather than 2014 -- taking away a full year of benefits.

Easter said Judge John Belz recognized that members of the pension system could suffer "irreparable harm" if the law had taken effect before the courts resolved the constitutionality question.

University spokesman Tom Hardy says it isn't clear how many employees might change their retirement plans.

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