Illinois Pension

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The Illinois General Assembly was busy this week, passing legislation intended to fight gender pay inequity, teach LGBT history, and raise the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The panel also discusses NPR Illinois' recent series examining Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed tax increases and expansions.

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A program designed to curb Illinois’ pension debt is now underway. Early numbers show more Illinois state employees than expected are choosing to take a pension buyout from the state.


teacherpensions.org

A national study released this week comparing general school funding dollars with the amount spent on staff benefits singled out Illinois — and not in a good way.  

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

When school districts outside of Chicago negotiate contracts, they do so with the assurance that the state will pick up the tab on pensions. To control growing pension costs, lawmakers capped salary bumps at 6 percent in 2005. This year, the cap tightened to 3 percent.

Illinois' teachers unions have collected more than 15,000 signatures on petitions urging state lawmakers to reverse that measure.  

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The Illinois legislature overwhelmingly passed a full year budget Thursday. It includes a few plans to cut down on the state’s massive pension debt.


Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Mounting pension debt, persistent cash flow issues, and political gridlock – Illinois has a lot of problems. But it wasn’t always this way.

In a recent article for the magazine Governing, Daniel Vock examines how the state got here

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Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Between a new state pension plan and Gov. Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of the Democrats' school funding plan, some school districts would be in for a big hit in July 2020. The two changes would have a particularly significant impact on districts with high rates of teacher turnover and declining enrollment.

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Yet another proposal aims to get the state out of crisis.

A 1917 report conducted on the Illinois pension system revealed bad news. After a pension-focused trip around the globe, with studies on such nations as Great Britain, New Zealand, and Austro-Hungary, it got to crux of the matter:

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New projections show nibbling around the edges of the state’s budget problems will get Illinois nowhere. 

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Illinois' already strained bank account will be stretched by another $4.6 billion because of action taken by the state government's largest pension fund.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Officials with the Teacher’s Retirement System made a decision today that could add another $421 million to Illinois’ annual pension costs.

 

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High school seniors who plan to go on to college should be finalizing their dorm and roommate choices about now.

But this year, those decisions aren’t about who brings the mini-fridge. With a total lack of  state funding for higher education, it’s about which schools and programs will be fiscally stable, or whether to go at all.

Illinois Issues: The Next Pension Time Bomb

Mar 30, 2016

Illinois has more than $100 billion in pension debt. So far, attempts to fix it have been mostly illegal.

Leslie Munger at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Illinois won't make its next pension payment; Comptroller Leslie Munger Wednesday announced she can't, because the state doesn't have the cash.

Il. Supreme Court website - state.il.us/court

Illinois may not be done with the 2013 law reducing state employees’ pensions after all. The Attorney General appears to be readying to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois House held its first hearing on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to address the state’s unfunded pension liability. 

Under the governor's plan, employees would keep all the retirement benefits they have logged so far, but would see a cut to their benefits going forward. Democrats on the House's pension committee said last week’s Illinois Supreme Court opinion, overturning pension changes passed two years ago, rules out that idea.

John Cullerton
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Even though John Cullerton went along with the pension law that on Friday was found by the state's high court to be unconstitutional, the Illinois Senate President had always favored another approach. Now he's saying (well, not exactly in these exact words ... ) "I told you so." In this episode of The Players -- a podcast about who's who in Illinois politics and what they're up to -- Amanda Vinicky spoke with the Senate's top Democrat about his plans to try again.

Amanda Vinicky

There's a reason analysts say Illinois has the nation's lowest credit rating. It has the nation's largest unfunded pension liability. A 2013 law that’s facing a challenge before the Illinois Supreme Court is intended to help.

Illinois is facing a budget hole in the billions, thanks to a rollback of the income tax. If the high court tosses out the pension law, there'll be more fiscal pressure.

Analysts like Moody's Ted Hampton say the rating won't likely drop further, even if the justices toss the law because the rating already presumes the law cannot be implemented.

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

Union members and state employees can expect another pension battle ahead, regardless of what the state Supreme Court says about Illinois' landmark 2013 law. 

Amanda Vinicky

The fate of Illinois' pension law will stay on the fast track. Illinois' Supreme Court justices today rejected a request for a delay.

It can take a long time for a case to wend its way through the courts. But after a Sangamon County judge in November ruled Illinois' overhaul of public worker pensions unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court agreed to take up the case on an expedited basis.

On Tuesday, lawyers contesting the law tried to slow it down by a month.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

As they seek to permanently toss Illinois' pension overhaul, state employees and retirees are asking the state Supreme Court for more time to make their arguments. Lawyers filed the request Tuesday.

It's a case that's supposed to be on the fast track: After a Sangamon County judge in November found Illinois' pension law unconstitutional, the Attorney General appealed straight to the state supreme court -- which agreed to hear it on an expedited basis.

Lisa Madigan at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is arguing that a landmark Illinois pension overhaul should be upheld because the state has ``police powers'' that allow it to change a contract in extraordinary circumstances.

Madigan is appealing a lower court ruling that found the 2013 law unconstitutional. She filed an opening brief to the Illinois Supreme Court Monday.  

Several groups filed briefs supporting the state's arguments. They include the city of Chicago, the Illinois Municipal League and Chicago Public Schools.

npr.org

The trade magazine "Institutional Investor" has ranked Illinois' incoming governor as its most influential player in U.S. pensions. An article says Bruce Rauner may regret ever having run for office, given the state's massive longterm pension debt, and the difficulty he is expected to have in addressing it.

Lisa Madigan
Marsy's Law for Illinois

Attorney General Lisa  Madigan says if the state supreme court agrees to an expedited hearing...  a ruling on the state's pension law could come by January,.

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club is launching an initiative Wednesday that aims to spark a discussion about consequences if the Illinois Supreme Court strikes down pension overhaul legislation.

The nonpartisan organization of executives is calling the outreach effort to lawmakers, schools and social services the ``What If'' initiative. Committee President Ty Fahner calls it ``imperative'' to understand what could result if pension reform is overturned.  

  Governor Pat Quinn now has the support of the two statewide teachers unions. The Illinois Federation of Teachers endorsed Quinn Wednesday despite the union's opposition to Quinn's ideas for pension changes.

The IFT is one of the groups suing Quinn for the pension overhaul law passed late last year that would reduce public employee benefits, including those for teachers.

But the union's president, Dan Montgomery, says the election is bigger than the ongoing lawsuit.

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A couple dozen mayors from throughout Illinois came to Springfield Wednesday, calling on legislators to help fix downstate pension systems that they say are unsustainable.

Municipalities are on the hook for paying local police and firefighters’ retirement benefits.

But the pension rates are set by the state.

Mayors say lawmakers have increasingly “sweetened” benefits – without giving their cities any funding to cover the extra cost.

It’s left many pension systems severely underfunded.

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Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a pension-reform measure for the Chicago Park District.  

The legislation Quinn signed Tuesday is designed to deal with a $971 million deficit in the district's pension program. When lawmakers approved it in November, experts hailed it as example of compromise for what was then an elusive solution to the five state pension systems' $100 billion hole.  

SRS

Officials say sufficient state funding the last two years means key state-employee pension funds didn't have to sell assets to meet payments.  
 The State Retirement Systems covers pensions for ex-state employees, judges and lawmakers. A report Thursday by Auditor General William Holland says SRS withdrew $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year _ down from nearly $250 million the year before.  
 William Atwood heads the Illinois State Board of Investment, which manages the SRS portfolios.  
 He says the large withdrawal in 2012 was because of state underfunding in 2011.  

How The Pension Lawsuits Could Play Out

Dec 11, 2013
University of Illinois

Several state employee unions are expected to file a lawsuit contesting Illinois' new pension measure.

A University of Illinois law professor says that action will start a process that could last as long as two years. 

John Colombo said any decisions will ultimately come from the state’s Supreme Court, but the process has to start in circuit court.

He expects unions to seek an injunction that would keep the reform plan from taking effect while the legal process plays out.

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