45th House candidates disagree on pension reform fix
The two candidates fighting for the 45th House District seat in the Nov. 4 election agree that Senate Bill 1 is not the answer for pension reform, but they disagree on the value of one proposed alternative.
The race features two newcomers to the state political scene: Republican Christine Winger is a Wood Dale alderman and Democrat Jenny Burke is on the Itasca Elementary District 10 school board.
Senate Bill 1, which is being challenged in the courts, was signed into law in December. It cuts benefits for many workers and retirees, but is supposed to help the state completely fund its pension systems by 2044.
Winger said she opposes the bill because it "infringes" on the promised benefits for retirees, which she believes is unconstitutional.
She said next session, the legislature has to "jump in" and get started on "true pension reform," instead of waiting for the courts to decide the bill's fate.
Winger said she is looking to expand on Rep. Mike Fortner's House Bill 2365, which she says "provides a good starting point of true reform."
She said some of the bill's key provisions mandate a "must-pay" requirement, meaning the state could no longer take a "pension holiday" or skip payments.
"When elected, I want to dig into the bill itself with staff and ensure there's nothing in there that would take away benefits of someone that's currently retired because I know how people plan for their futures and to have something promised and in place and then take it away, (that's) wrong," Winger said.
Like Winger, Burke says she never would have voted for SB 1 because it does not "give people what they deserve."
"When you begin your employment and you're told you have a certain contract, that contract should be honored," Burke said.
But Burke said she can't necessarily support Fortner's alternative, either. She said Fortner's bill includes a "lot of the same things" as SB 1, "so in my mind, we should probably be looking at other options."
"I think the courts are probably going to say that (SB 1 is) unconstitutional," Burke said. "But we don't know what the court's going to say so it's really impossible for anybody to make any sort of guess as to what's going to need to be done because we can't really work on it until the courts make their decision."
Burke said it doesn't matter if people are retired or currently working, they should get the pension benefits they were promised.
But Winger has a different approach.
"When elected ... I imagine there are the vested employees and the ones that are working toward vesting, and that there would be a tiered approach in my view on how to address that," she said.
The 45th District includes all or parts of Addison, Bartlett, Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Itasca, Keeneyville, Medinah, Roselle, West Chicago and Wood Dale.