Quinn: Local gov't should share pension burden

February 7, 2012 2:44:09 PM PST
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is considering shifting the burden of funding teacher pensions from the state to the school districts to help pay down the state's $80 billion pension problem.

"We will have to roll up our sleeves this year in Illinois and enact public pension reform for existing employees," Gov. Pat Quinn said.

Gov. Quinn said Tuesday that the vast majority -- 78% of the existing employees his pension reform plan would affect -- don't even work directly for the state of Illinois. They are teachers and other workers at suburban and downstate school districts and public universities who Quinn says need to contribute to own employee retirement funds.

"Everything is on the table. But I think any entity that employs someone should have a stake with respect to their retirement costs," Gov. Quinn said.

Only the Chicago Public Schools district supports its own teachers' pension system. In the rest of the state, all suburban and downstate districts -- as well as universities -- use the state-supported teacher retirement system that's guaranteed by tax dollars. And it's billions of dollars short of being fully funded. If those suburban and downstate districts are required to pay into their own teachers' pension funds, some might have to raise local property taxes to find the additional money.

"How they pay for it, well, that is up to that district," Quinn said.

"I think that local units of government need to contribute to the pension funds for their workers," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. Preckwinkle's suburban constituents pay school levies as part of their property tax.

During his speech, the governor also listed other possible pension reforms that would affect current employees and retirees, such as raising employee contributions and the retirement age in Illinois and lowering the automatic cost of living adjustment to pension payments.