McSweeney, Beaubien differ on how to fix pension crisis
The two hopefuls vying for the 52nd District state House seat agree on the need for significant pension reform in Illinois.
How Republican David McSweeney and independent Dee Beaubien would go about solving the crisis differs, however.
McSweeney, a financial consultant from Barrington Hills who won the GOP primary over state Rep. Kent Gaffney and Tea Partyer Danielle Rowe, boasts a multiple point plan aimed at shrinking the roughly $83 billion unfunded pension liability.
For existing employees, McSweeney would raise the retirement age, reduce pension cost-of-living adjustments and convert employees into a 401(k) plan while protecting the defined benefit pension benefits earned to date. Some employees, he said, should have the option of joining the Social Security system and receiving a smaller 401(k) matching payment from the state.
To address unfunded retiree health care obligations, he said future benefits, including health care, need to be reduced. He'd also eliminate pensions for state legislators in a move he calls mostly symbolic.
McSweeney believes the unfunded liability is actually closer to $130 billion, saying the state's assumption of an 8.25 percent rate of investment return is far too optimistic in this economy. He's not dissuaded by the argument that cutting benefits for existing employees is unconstitutional.
"It's going to go to court no matter what because the unions will challenge everything," McSweeney said. "So let it play out in court."
Beaubien, wife of the late Republican state Rep. Mark Beaubien, also calls for significant reform while speaking more generally about the topic.
The retired counselor from Barrington Hills doesn't think it's fair to reduce retirees' benefits, but does believe the 2010 reforms didn't go far enough. She supports a House bill introduced by state Rep. Mike Fortner that would require certain bond payments to be redirected to the state's pension fund once the bonds mature. The West Chicago Republican's plan also would increase employee contributions and cap pension benefits.
Though Fortner claims the initiative would save $400 million a year, Beaubien wants a more concrete projection.
"We should have the actuarial numbers before we do anything," she said.
Neither candidate backs a plan by top Democrats to shift some pension costs to school districts. McSweeney unequivocally said the state needs to solve the problem it created, while Beaubien left the door slightly open to the possibility.
"I would not support it right now unless you could convince me it wouldn't have a huge effect on school districts," Beaubien said.
Both candidates said they would forgo a pension if elected.
McSweeney and Beaubien are scheduled to appear at a candidates forum at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, at the McHenry County College auditorium, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake. Republican State Sen. Dan Duffy and Amanda Howland, his opponent in the race for the 26th District Senate seat, also are scheduled to attend.
The 52nd District covers parts of Algonquin, Barrington, Barrington Hills, Cary, Crystal Lake, Fox River Grove, Island Lake, Lake in the Hills, North Barrington, Oakwood Hills, South Barrington, Trout Valley and Wauconda.