Pension changes hit roadblocks as legislative session ends

  • Toni Preckwinkle

    Toni Preckwinkle

  • Terry Link

    Terry Link

By Zachary White and Marty Hobe
Updated 5/31/2014 12:08 AM

SPRINGFIELD -- Lawmakers didn't touch proposals dealing with pensions for suburban police officers and firefighters and Cook County employees before leaving the Capitol.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was on the Illinois Senate floor Friday thanking Democrats for voting for her proposal and telling them they likely will have to wait until after the November election for a vote in the Illinois House.


In the end, Preckwinkle was stymied in part by the lack of Republican support of her plan. Because some Democrats might oppose cutting benefits, Republicans might be needed for approval.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees had objected to Preckwinkle's plan, too.

"We urge Cook County to resume pension discussions with all county unions," AFSCME's Illinois branch said on Twitter. "Let's work together for a fair, constitutional plan all can support."

It would have raised the retirement age for some workers and cut back on their yearly benefit raises, and it also would have required the county to pay more toward workers' pensions starting in 2016.

Republicans worried those extra costs could lead to property tax hikes, and Preckwinkle said this week that while she'd try to avoid tax increases, she couldn't make the promise.

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"I think it would be foolish to do that," she told House lawmakers.

State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, didn't call a vote on a plan to lower costs of suburban police officer and firefighter pensions.

Link's plan was decried by mayors. He wanted to try to raise the investment returns of local pension funds and therefore lower how much towns have to pay in every year.

But some local officials worried that plan wouldn't save enough money without benefit cuts.

Neither route was going to be easy. Lawmakers spent much of the past three years debating similar cuts to teachers' and state workers' benefits.

Now, those changes approved last year are being fought in court, a battle that could take years to settle.

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