New Rauner pension plan cuts benefits for teachers, cops, firefighters
Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled a new broad plan Wednesday to try to cut some retirement benefits for teachers, firefighters, police officers and Cook County employees.
The latest pension plan comes just months after the Illinois Supreme Court rejected benefit cuts for state employees and teachers, raising questions about any new proposal when the state constitution says benefits shouldn't be "diminished."
The proposal by Rauner, a Republican, incorporates the benefit-cutting plan offered by Democratic Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, which she says could help save the county enough money to avoid a sales tax hike.
Rauner's newest plan also nods toward suburban mayors, who have called for pension changes for years to help reduce retirement costs for police officers and firefighters. Under Rauner's plan, they would have to choose between two options: Smaller yearly pension increases in retirement or basing their eventual pension payout on today's salary rather than on salaries after future raises.
Teachers would be offered the same deal under Rauner's plan.
In the past, Democratic Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has argued it would be constitutional to change employees' pension benefits if they were offered something in return.
"The governor's recognition of the Cullerton model is encouraging, but we will have to review the details of the governor's new proposal," spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said.
Unions pushed back against the proposal, which they said isn't legal. And given its size and the political complications involved, a vote might not be coming soon.
"The governor's pension proposal completely disregards the Supreme Court's recent ruling, which is crystal clear," the We Are One Illinois union coalition said in a statement. "His framework is unconstitutional, unfair to workers and retirees, and a waste of taxpayer dollars and time."
Rauner said he wouldn't make legislative passage of the pension proposal a mandatory part of a budget deal as Illinois enters its second week without a spending plan in place.
But he also unveiled new versions of a property tax freeze and other proposals he says the Democrat-led legislature must support before he'll consider raising state taxes and ending the impasse.
In an ongoing tug of war with House Speaker Michael Madigan, Republican Rauner said the powerful Democrat needed to call for votes on his proposals soon.
"He's in charge. He controls the General Assembly," Rauner said.
Rauner's budget impasse with Democrats means the state doesn't have the legal authority to pay new bills, including, for now, its own payroll later in July.