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updated: 5/27/2014 5:12 PM

State Senate OKs Cook County pension cuts

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  • Toni Preckwinkle

      Toni Preckwinkle

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Senate Tuesday approved a plan Democrats hope could save Cook County's retirement funds from insolvency but that Republicans worry could lead to future property tax hikes.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle pushed the plan with the backing of some union leaders to both cut county workers' retirement benefits and pay more into its pension funds, which she says will keep the pension funds from going under in the future.

The Senate approved by a 36-16 vote.

The plan would raise the retirement age for some workers and cut how much their benefits rise every year.

In addition, the county would pay about $147 million more into its retirement funds starting in 2016. Preckwinkle told lawmakers she'd work to keep that cost hike from raising the county's property tax request.

"We've been very creative over the past 3½ years," Preckwinkle said.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, was skeptical.

"I am ... concerned you will need to ask property taxpayers for more money," Murphy said.

Lawmakers, who spent much of the past three years debating similar cuts to teachers' and state workers' benefits, have seen those changes fought in court, a battle that could take years.

While Preckwinkle said a majority of union workers are OK with the changes, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union objected, and a representative said the union would consider suing over the Cook County plan.

The Cook County plan is separate from one in the works from state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, that would seek to lower suburban costs of police officer and firefighter pensions without making benefit cuts. It was not debated Tuesday.

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